On October 3, the special cell of Delhi Police conducted raids on the residences of journalists associated with the controversial portal ‘NewsClick’ in connection with an alleged Chinese funding controversy. Among those detained were Abhisar Sharma, Urmilesh, former NDTV Managing Editor Aunindyo Chakraborty, and others. These actions were carried out in conjunction with an FIR filed on August 17, citing sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sections of IPC 153A (prompting enmity) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
Reports indicate that additional FIRs have been lodged against some of the detained journalists in this case. In total, 30 locations, including the residences of these journalists and the News Click office, were searched by the police. Some of these journalists named in news reports include Sanjay Rajoura, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Prabir Purkayastha, Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakraborty, Sohail Hashmi and others.
Presently, the mobile phones and laptops of the journalists affiliated with News Click have been confiscated. It’s reported that nine of them have been detained and will be placed in police custody later in the day.
Abhisar Sharma, one of the journalists, shared on the social media platform X: “Delhi Police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone…”
The police conducted searches but did not make any arrests, as confirmed by an officer in a statement to the Hindustan Times: “The raids were on people associated with NewsClick, but we have not arrested anyone. We are carrying out searches and questioning some persons.” The officer added, “A detailed briefing for the press is likely later in the day.”
In August, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached a flat linked to NewsClick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayashta in New Delhi’s Saket as part of its money laundering probe against the news portal. The agency also conducted raids at Purkayastha’s premises in September 2021. According to a New York Times report, the outlet was involved in a global network receiving funding from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham to “spread Chinese propaganda.” (Read a detailed analysis of the NYT report and the allegations surfaced against News Click in this report by Organiser)
An ED investigation uncovered a fraudulent infusion of foreign funds totalling Rs 38.05 crore over a three-year period. Further scrutiny revealed questionable infusion of foreign inward remittance amounting to Rs 9.59 crore through FDI and Rs 28.46 crore through export of services. These funds were distributed to various controversial journalists, including Gautam Navlakha and associates of Teestha Setalvad.
Recent reports suggest multiple journalists associated with NewsClick have been detained by Delhi Police in connection with the ongoing raids. Earlier, Abhisar Sharma had tweeted about the police raid on his premises and the confiscation of his laptop and phone.
Delhi Police has reportedly filed a new case under UAPA, separate from the ED case, which pertains to charges related to terrorist activities and terror funding. This development poses significant challenges for NewsClick and those involved. A forensic team from Delhi Police is also present, gathering evidence on site, as reported by Republic.
A government source, quoted by India Today, emphasized, “It is about the sovereignty of India and not about freedom of speech.” The New York Times investigation also revealed that Indian news portal NewsClick is among organizations funded by a network connected to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for disseminating Chinese propaganda. The source condemned the funding from China as “an assault on the sovereignty of India” and stressed the importance of securing electronic evidence to get to the bottom of the matter.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur responded to the Delhi Police raid on NewsClick, stating that probe agencies are free to conduct their investigations.
Following the ED investigation in 2021, a New York Times investigation in August 2023 uncovered an intricate network of activist organisations, non-profits, shell corporations, and their close associations with China and its propaganda machinery. Notably, Neville Roy Singham plays a central role in this network. The article revealed, “What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide.”
It was emphasized that Singham has been successful in disseminating talking points from the communist administration in countries including India, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States under the guise of progressive advocacy. The report pointed out, “In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points.”