What is the rationale for the agencies to slap the anti-terror law on the key employees of a news portal?
The raids on the office and homes of journalists, editors, academics, authors, comedians and contributors of the English news portal NewsClick and the arrest of its editor and an official under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, pose certain questions that the government needs to answer. And the answers should be more substantive than the reiteration of the independence of the investigative agencies advanced by the minister for information and broadcasting if they are to satisfy the people who value the right to freedom of speech and expression and independence of the media.
The Enforcement Directorate has been investigating the portal’s funding sources, which include foreign ones with alleged links to China. It is imperative that the government uncover the funding trail to see if the transactions were above board; and prosecute the people if they are found to be on the wrong side of the law. But that does not appear to be the case. The ED has not come into the picture as yet; it is the Delhi police doing the job. What was it that the ED was investigating all these years? Is this not pure and simple harassment?
It is known that the news portal took positions that were at variance with those of the government on issues such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and the farmers’ agitations. The journalists and authors from whom their communication tools such as mobile phones ad laptops have been taken away have revealed that the police interrogated them on these agitations as well as the Delhi riots. Is this not an attempt to muzzle the media?
Any attempt to indulge in or promote terrorist activities must be dealt with in the strongest possible manner. Media organisations work to inform people, not to terrorise them. What is the rationale for the agencies to slap the anti-terror law on the key employees of a news portal?
This is not the first time a government has let loose its agencies on people and political parties which are opposed to itself. But such attempts have hardly yielded good results in the long run. The latest cannot be an exception to those precedents.