A day after the Income Tax Department raided the premises of media group Dainik Bhaskar as well as Uttar Pradesh-based TV channel Bharat Samachar, the Editors Guild of India Friday expressed concern over government agencies 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,” it said in a statement.
Dainik Bhaskar had carried multiple critical reports on the government’s handling of the pandemic. The Editors Guild said it “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,” the statement said.
On Bharat Samachar, the Editors Guild said it, too, “has been subjected to raids by the tax authorities” and called it “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,” it said.
The editors’ body also flagged the Enforcement Directorate searches in February at the office of NewsClick.in, “which had been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers agitation and the anti-CAA protests”.
The raids against Dainik Bhaskar, which has a presence in 12 states and runs newspapers as well as operates radio stations, web portals and mobile phone apps, started around 5:30 am on Thursday and went on till late in the evening. The raids took place across 30 locations in different states.
The premises of Bharat Samachar and its promoters and staffers were raided in Uttar Pradesh.