International uproar following mass raids and arrest of Indian journalists

There has been an outpouring of solidarity following the raid and arrest of journalists in India, who have been targeted as a result of baseless accusations published in the New York Times

October 04, 2023

In the hours following the raids of over 100 journalists affiliated with Indian leftist outlet Newsclick, international outlet Peoples Dispatch, and Tricontinental Research Services, and the detention of around 50, leading academics and journalists from across the world have expressed solidarity and outrage.

The coordinated repressive action was carried out as part of an investigation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a draconian law which has been widely criticized by human rights organizations in India and internationally as it undermines civil liberties and rights. Newsclick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and administrator Amit Chakraborty were arrested during the raid under the draconian anti-terror law and remain in police custody.

On October 3, after news broke about the raids, the Press Club of India held an emergency meeting in New Delhi, wherein journalists and media activists resolved to continue fighting for media freedom in India.

On October 4, journalists and writers, including novelist Arundhati Roy, staged a protest at the Press Club of India, while hundreds of young activists gathered at Jantar Mantar area in Delhi to reject the attacks on press freedom.

Roy spoke to the BBC, denouncing the charges against the journalists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “They have confiscated the phones, the computers, they have charged them under this anti-terrorism act, collapsing the difference between terrorists and journalists,” she said.

In New York City, activists and journalists picketed on October 3 outside of the New York Times building in Midtown Manhattan. Much of the blame for the latest unjust targeting of these Indian journalists lies at the hands of the New York Times. The Indian government has been viciously targeting Newsclick for many years, following their first raid of the outlet in 2021 following Newsclick’s faithful reporting of the farmers’ protests in the country. A recent article by the New York Times, claiming that Newsclick-affiliated journalists are part of a Chinese propaganda network, was used by Modi’s government to justify further repression.

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“A Government that has not been able to substantiate any charges against Newsclick despite being in possession of all its information, documentation and communications, needed a motivated and bogus article published in the New York Times to invoke the draconian UAPA and attempt to shut down and stifle independent and fearless voices that portray the story of the real India,” said Newsclick in a recent statement. “Of peasants, of laborers, of farmers, and other oft-ignored sections of society.

The New York Times’ recent article is merely a part of the West’s Cold War against China, activists claimed. Ben Becker, editor-in-chief of BreakThrough News, said at the picket that the piece is a way to accuse “anyone who opposes US foreign policy of being an agent of China.”

“What this article did is to lay the groundwork for an attack on the anti-war movement or anyone who’s critical of US foreign policy against China,” he said.

It is Newsclick’s steadfast reporting of working class struggles in India that has landed them in hot water with the Modi government, said Zoe Alexandra, co-editor of Peoples Dispatch, outside of the 52-story New York Times building.

“[Newsclick] dared to cover the incredibly powerful and courageous uprising of farmers in India. They were talking to farmers when they were committing suicide in the dozens and in the hundreds,” said Alexandra. “It’s Newsclick that covered the largest strike in human history. A quarter billion people on the streets.”

A coalition of 18 media organizations in India have penned a letter, published on October 14, to Chief Justice of India (CJI) Y V Chandrachud, expressing concern over the state’s repression. “The invocation of UAPA is especially chilling. Journalism cannot be prosecuted as ‘terrorism’. Enough instances in history abound to tell us where that eventually goes,” reads the letter. Signatories include Digipub News India Foundation, the Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Press Club of India, and the Foundation for Media Professionals.

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In Taliparamba municipality in Kerala, India, dozens in the Democratic Youth Federation of India marched in solidarity with Newsclick.

The International People’s’ Assembly (IPA), a platform of over 200 trade unions, people’s movements, and left parties, declared in a statement on October 3 following the raids: “Today’s raids constitute a dangerous attack on press freedom in India and concerns all the democratic and progressive people around the world. The International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA) demands an end to persecution and press suppression in India.”

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