Police in India on Tuesday carried out raids on a number of locations connected to a news site the government has accused of receiving funds from China.
The NewsClick online portal describes itself as "an independent media organization dedicated to covering news from India and elsewhere with a focus on progressive movements." It's known for critical coverage of Narendra Modi's governnment.
"A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda," an interior ministry official overseeing the police raids in Delhi said.
What do we know about the raids?
Police entered the NewsClick office but also raided the homes of journalists and writers who work there.
The site's editor-in-chief and another individual were detained while police took boxes full of documents.
Another two journalists said that police had seized their devices during raids on their homes.
"Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone," journalist Abhisar Sharma wrote on social media.
An interior ministry official said that raids had been carried out on the homes of a dozen journalists connected to the news portal, but another official said, "We have not arrested anyone."
Why did police carry out raids on NewsClick?
A ministry official said that the raids had been carried out as part of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate — an agency that looks into financial crimes.
The investigation was launched following a report in the New York Times in August that said NewsClick had received funds from US-born billionaire Neville Roy Singham who has close ties to Beijing. Ties between India and China have been strained since border clashes in 2020.
Prabir Purkayastha, founder of NewsClick, rejected the allegations at the time and said they would respond in court.
India scored poorly in Reporters Without Borders' yearly press freedom ranking in 2023, falling to 161st place, and seeing its media situation going from "problematic" to "very bad."
The Press Club of India said it was "deeply concerned about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with NewsClick."
It added that it stood "in solidarity with the journalists and demands the government to come out with details."
In February, Indian authorities searched the premises of the BBC in New Delhi and Mumbai on charges of tax evasion.
ab/msh (AP, Reuters)