NEW DELHI: NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and its HR head Amit Chakravarty were Wednesday sent to police custody for seven days. The two were arrested Tuesday in a case filed under UAPA following raids conducted in the wake of allegations that the portal was being paid to support Chinese propaganda. NewsClick said it had not been provided with a copy of the FIR and Purkayastha moved a plea seeking one.
Sixteen journalist bodies on Wednesday appealed to CJI DY Chandrachud and sought his intervention in the instance of police raids on houses of journalists affiliated to NewsClick “before it is too late and autocratic police state becomes the norm.”
The media organisations said the letter to the CJI was not intended to bypass or circumvent the process and procedure established by law, but to check the “inherent malice” in the process that entails summoning of journalists and seizure of their devices in the name of investigation.
“Just as the police are obliged by the Constitution to state the grounds of arrest, it must equally be a precondition to questioning. In its absence, as we have seen in the NewsClick case, vague assertions about the investigation of some unspecified offence have become the grounds for questioning journalists about their coverage of, inter alia, the farmers’ movement, the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic and the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act,” a statement by the organisation said.
The letter, signed by organisations including Digipub News India Foundation, Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Press Club of India, Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP), Mumbai Press Club and Guwahati Press Club, among others, also underscored that a large section of journalists in India find themselves “working under the threat of reprisal”.
“We do not say that journalists are above the law…However, intimidation of the media affects the democratic fabric of society. And subjecting journalists to a concentrated criminal process because the government disapproves of their coverage of national and international affairs is an attempt to chill the press by threat of reprisal—the very ingredient you identified as a threat to freedom,” the organisations said to the CJI.

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