New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India Friday expressed concern over the income tax raids on Bhopal-based Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar and Lucknow-based independent news channel, Bharat Samachar, especially in light of the recent Pegasus ‘hacking’ controversy.
The raids took place Thursday at 32 premises linked to Dainik Bhaskar and at the Lucknow office of Bharat Samachar, as well as the residences of its owner-editor and state chief, under allegations of tax evasion.
The Guild drew attention to the fact that the Hindi daily had extensively reported on the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and asked “difficult questions” of the UP government in terms of their Covid management. It also noted the February 2021 raid of Newsclick.in‘s office by the Enforcement Directorate.
“EGI is therefore concerned that government agencies are being used as a coercive tool to suppress free and independent journalism,” the Guild said.
Here is the full press statement of the Guild:
The Editors Guild of India is concerned about the Income Tax raids on July 22, at the offices of country’s leading newspaper group, Dainik Bhaskar, as well as a Lucknow based independent news channel, Bharat Samachar. They come against the backdrop of in depth reporting on the pandemic by Dainik Bhaskar, which brought to fore the gross mismanagement by government authorities and the immense loss of human lives.
In a recent webinar hosted by the Guild, Om Gaur, the National Editor of Bhaskar had stated that their advertising from government departments had been cut after the recent critical coverage of state authorities. He had also written an op-ed in the New York Times, headlined ‘The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie.’
Bharat Samachar, too, has been subjected to raids by the tax authorities. It is one of the few channels in UP that has been asking difficult questions from the state government with respect to pandemic management.
Notwithstanding the merits of the case, the timing of these raids is concerning given the recent critical coverage by both the organisations.
In February 2021, the Enforcement Department had conducted raids at the office of NewsClick.in, which had been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers agitation and the anti-CAA protests.
EGI is therefore concerned that government agencies are being used as a coercive tool to suppress free and independent journalism. This is all the more disturbing given the recent media reports on the wide spread surveillance of journalists and civil society activists using the Pegasus software.
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