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Prabir Purkayastha’s residence and office were raided by the officials of the central agency, on an alleged violation of receiving foreign funds that are in direct violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) on Wednesday, October 11. He was recently arrested by the Delhi Police on account of allegedly running “anti-national” propaganda on his news portal and was receiving the money from China for the same.
The following statement by the news portal of the NewsClick has been released, which states that the current “search and seizure operation” by the CBI is going on at the residence of Mr. Purkayastha, their Editor-in-Chief, and “this is the fifth agency that is investigating us”. The spokesperson of the CBI has said that approximately ₹ 28.46 crore has been received by the NewsClick through four foreign entities.
This unexplained export of money stands in violation of the FCRA Act, 2010, which prohibits any “acceptance of foreign contribution by the company engaged in the production and broadcast of audio-visual news or current affairs program through any electronic mode and by any correspondent or columnist or writer or owner of such company”. NewsClick has vehemently denied all the allegations, by giving a statement that any information or news shared at the portal “at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority, directly or indirectly” is not meant to spread any propaganda in favor of the Chinese government.
Prabir Purkayastha’s earlier arrest on October 3, 2023
Prabir Purkayastha, along with Amit Chakravarthy, human resources department head at NewsClick, was arrested on October 3, over the allegation of receiving money and running pro-chinese propagandist news on their portal. Following this, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Hardeep Kaur gave the judgment where the duo was said to be in remand in judicial custody for 10 days. She added that more investigation needs to be done as this is a case of “deep-rooted conspiracy” and the duo has to be prevented from adding further to the offense.
The court also said that questioning several people who are involved in the case is yet to happen, a huge amount of digital data has yet to be analyzed and the files and documents confiscated during the search have to be done as well. In June 2021, when the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) conducted a similar search, the Delhi Court stated that protection should be given to Mr. Purkayastha and directed the agency to not take any kind of “coercive action” against him.
Journalist Bodies seek support
Many journalist organizations have come together to express their resistance against the increasing harassment of news agencies at the hands of government officials. A fresh FIR was also launched after the seizure operations by the CBI under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967. Six media organizations including the Indian Women’s Press Corps, and the Delhi Union of Journalists have issued an appeal asking for spare laptops and electronic devices as many members working at the NewsClick are sole breadwinners of their family and their livelihoods and right to work and have taken a severe hit during these operations.