20-25 Questions, List Of Phones, Laptops To Seize: Inside NewsClick Raids

The Enforcement Directorate believes NewsClick received nearly Rs 38 crore from entities with alleged links to China, and that this money was allegedly used for salaries of eight journalists who are now under the agency's scrutiny.

20-25 Questions, List Of Phones, Laptops To Seize: Inside NewsClick Raids

NewsClick Raids: Delhi Police carried out raids at more than 30 locations, sources said.

New Delhi:

Five sections of the UAPA anti-terror law and penal code provisions relating to criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity form the bedrock of the case against NewsClick and at least 10 journalists associated with the news website, sources told NDTV this morning. Earlier today Delhi Police - acting on the information from the Enforcement Directorate - raided 24 locations in the city. Electronic devices like mobile phones and laptops were seized and five journalists were taken for further questioning.

In a significant development, sources have said the police had a list of devices and matched IMEI numbers on the list to those found during the raids on NewsClick and journalists. The police also had a list of 20-25 questions - on protests by farmers against the Modi government's "black" farm laws and protests in Delhi's Shaheeh Bagh against the citizenship law.

The journalists were also asked about travel to the northeastern states and about stories from there.

Inside Police's Raids On NewsClick

It began with Delhi Police's Special Cell holding a meeting at 2 AM on Tuesday at its head office in the city's Lodhi Colony.  Around 200 cops were present and, to ensure secrecy, mobile phones of junior officials were temporarily confiscated.

At the same time, Mumbai Police teams raided the residence of activist Teesta Setalvad, who the Enforcement Directorate believes is linked to the NewsClick case.

READ | 200 Delhi Cops Met At 2 am Before Raiding 30 Places Linked To NewsClick

There was also a raid at Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury's residence to question the son of a staff member. The son, Sunmit Kumar, works at NewsClick, and his phone and laptop were seized, sources said.

What Are Sections Invoked By Delhi Police?

Delhi Police's case against NewsClick and its journalists has charges under five sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and two under the Indian Penal Code. No further details of the police case have been revealed so far.

IPC sections

  1. 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.
  2. 120B: Punishment for criminal conspiracy

UAPA sections

  1. Sec 13: Punishment for terrorist act
  2. Sec 16: Terrorist Act
  3. Sec 17: Raising funds for terrorist acts
  4. Sec 18: Conspiracy
  5. Sec 22C: Offences by Companies

What Is This NewsClick Case?

The Enforcement Directorate believes NewsClick received nearly Rs 38 crore from entities with alleged links to China. This money was allegedly used for salaries of eight journalists. These journalists were brought under the agency's scrutiny today.

READ | Journalists Raided Amid China Funding Row, Minister Says "No Need To Justify"

In addition, the agency also claims 'transactions' between NewsClick and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who allegedly fabricated evidence in the 2002 Godhra riots case. 

And, finally, sources said the agency also believes NewsClick promoters funded legal expenses of activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in case about alleged inflammatory speeches in Pune in 2017 that triggered the Bhima-Koregaon violence.

Overall, at least 10 journalists with connections to NewsClick have been, or are being raided.

Of these, five have been brought to the office of Delhi Police's Special Cell and their statements are being recorded. No arrests have been made so far, police have said.

Government "Doesn't Need To Justify"

Union Minister Anurag Thakur has dismissed media queries on this subject, telling reporters in Odisha, "I don't need to justify... if anyone has committed anything wrong, search agencies are free to carry out investigations under set guidelines."

Activists and the opposition have slammed these raids; many have called them a "crackdown on press freedom".

READ | NewsClick Raids: Minister's Remark, Opposition's Press Freedom Reminder

NewsClick And The NYT Story

In August, The New York Times had claimed NewsClick is among organisations funded by American millionaire Neville Roy Singham's global network that pushes Chinese propaganda.

READ | Neville Roy Singham: Man Accused Of Spreading China Propaganda In India

The site and its sources of funding were also investigated by Delhi Police's Economic Offences Wing in 2021; todays' Enforcement Directorate raids are linked to on this case. Also in 2021, NewsClick offices were searched by Income Tax Department officials.

Senior NewsClick editor Prabir Purkayastha had then hit out at authorities' action, calling them "attempts to stifle the independent journalism of media organisations".