A police officer is seen in New Delhi, India, on August 10, 2021. Tax authorities recently raided the offices of the outlets Newsclick and Newslaundry. (AP/Altaf Qadri)

Indian finance authorities raid offices of Newslaundry and Newsclick websites

New Delhi, September 13, 2021 – Indian authorities must stop harassing employees of the news websites Newslaundry and Newsclick and let them work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At about noon on September 10, officials from the national Income Tax Department raided the two outlets’ offices in New Delhi as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion, according to news reports and statements by the outlets.

Officials downloaded data from office computers and the personal cell phone and laptop of Newslaundry editor-in-chief Abhinandan Sekhri, and in the Newsclick raid took various financial documents as well as email archives from editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and Pranjal, an editor at the outlet who uses one name, according to the outlets’ statements.

The raids lasted until after midnight, according to those news reports and statements.

“Indian tax authorities’ raids on Newsclick and Newslaundry are clear intimidation tactics aimed at two outlets known to be critical of authorities,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities must cease harassing Newsclick and Newslaundry employees and editors, and ensure that journalists’ private digital information is not compromised.”

During the raids, officials confiscated and switched off the phones of everyone present at the offices, according to The Wire, which said that some of the Newslaundry employees were allowed to leave around 3 p.m. Officials returned the confiscated phones after the raids, that report said.

CPJ emailed the Income Tax Department for comment but did not receive any response.

In June, officials from the Income Tax Department visited Newsclick’s office in New Delhi and questioned Purkayastha and Pranjal for five hours each, as CPJ documented at the time.