The Indian government has been accused of using anti-terror laws and tax raids to target journalists and news outlets that are critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies.
On Tuesday, police in New Delhi raided the homes of several journalists associated with NewsClick, a left-leaning news website known for its scrutiny of the Modi government. Two journalists were arrested and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a law that is usually invoked to deal with terrorism suspects and makes it nearly impossible to receive bail.
NewsClick said the raids were an attempt to “shut down and stifle independent and fearless voices that portray the story of the real India.” The website also denied allegations that it had spread Chinese propaganda and received funding from a foreign tech mogul.
The raids on NewsClick are the latest in a series of actions against independent media in India under the Modi government, which has been trying to control the national narrative offline and online. In the past year, several news outlets that have exposed the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the communal riots in Delhi, and the farmer’s protest movement have faced tax investigations, legal cases, and online harassment.
Journalists who have questioned or criticized Modi or his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also faced threats, abuse, and ostracization.
Media watchdogs and human rights groups have condemned the attacks on press freedom in India and urged the government to respect the constitutional right to free speech and expression. India ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. The organization said India was one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly.