Indian police have raided properties belonging to Prannoy Roy, the founder of the popular NDTV channel, on suspicion of bank fraud. NDTV slammed the move as a "witch hunt" and retribution for criticizing the government.
Authorities believe Roy and his wife caused a financial loss of 480 million rupees ($7.46 million, 6.64 million euros) to a bank, officials said on Monday. The police also raided the Roy's New Delhi home and two other properties outside India's capital.
The broadcaster NDTV has repeatedly bumped heads with the conservative government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In November last, the authorities tried to ban the channel from broadcasting for one day as a penalty for allegedly showing sensitive information about a terror attack, prompting the company to challenge the decision in court. Last Thursday, a host threw a ruling party spokesman off the show after the man indicated NDTV had anti-government bias.
On Monday, India's Central Bureau of Investigation said that the outlet's editorial policy had nothing to do with the ongoing probe.
"We have nothing against NDTV's news coverage ... they are accused of a financial fraud and its our duty to investigate," a senior official said.
However, the English and Hindi news channel slammed the accusations as "attempts to blatantly undermine democracy and free speech in India."
"NDTV and its promoters will fight tirelessly against this witch hunt by multiple agencies," they said, adding that the broadcaster would "not be cowed by false charges."
Several prominent media employees publicly slammed the move, including one of the NDTV presenters, Sreenivasan Jain.
India fell by three places to 136th in this year's World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. The watchdog aired concerns that Hindu nationalists were "trying to purge all manifestations of anti-national thought."
dj/kl (Reuters, AFP)