Officials from India’s Income Tax Department on October 11, 2018, raided the home of journalist Raghav Bahl and the offices of The Quint, in Noida, where Bahl is editor-in-chief, and The Newsminute in Bengaluru, a news website that Bahl has a minority stake in, according to media reports. Government officials told Press Trust of India that the search was linked to an investigation into Bahl on allegations of tax evasion.
According to tweets by The Quint’s associate editor Poonam Agarwal,l staff at the news website were concerned that tax officials would try copy data, including sensitive journalistic information. Agarwal tweeted during the raid that Ritu Kapur, who is co-founder of The Quint and Bahl’s wife, said the officials attempted to clone journalistic and personal information from her devices. Agarwal later tweeted that officials did not copy any press materials after speaking with Bahl.
In a public statement and a video released the day after the raids, Bahl disputed the accusations. Bahl said that the same government had previously assessed his tax returns and found nothing wrong with them. Bahl said that officials used private contractors to copy data without any assurance of privacy.
In the statement, Bahl said he was not aware of the allegations against him before the raid. The journalist, who has been critical in The Quint of the Narendra Modi government in the past year, described the raids as an attempt by “the government’s spin-masters to say that the action was part of a year-long investigation into some Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) scam.”
The Editors Guild of India said in a statement it was concerned by the raids and said that while the tax department was within its rights to make inquiries, “it should not exercise those powers in a way that could be seen as an intimidation of the government’s critics.”
CPJ called the Income Tax Department for comment on three occasions, and each time the person who answered said someone would call back. As of October 23, 2018, no one had returned CPJ’s calls.