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NewsClick Case: RSF, along with attorneys from Guernica 37 Chambers, a firm specializing in human rights and international criminal law, has complained to the European External Action Service (EEAS), urging the European Union’s diplomatic body to bring attention to and take action against the raid conducted by Indian police on journalists associated with the independent online media platform NewsClick

According to a report by NewsClick, the complaint targets four officials from the Delhi police’s counter-terrorism unit, accused of being allegedly involved in a crackdown on journalists within the country.

This development comes on the heels when additional Sessions Judge Hardeep Kaur approved a request made by the Delhi Police, granting them an extension of 10 days to further their investigation against Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick on March 20.

Also Read: NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha arrested in anti-terror case amid China fund allegations

This case, filed under the anti-terror law UAPA, alleges that the news portal received funds to disseminate pro-China propaganda. The police argued that the investigation was “at a crucial stage” and required additional time to complete.

According to the FIR, a large amount of funds to the news portal came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.

It also alleged Purkayastha conspired with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Also Read: NewsClick founder approaches SC to challenge his arrest under UAPA

According to a report by NewsClick, RSF and Guernica 37 are advocating for the imposition of European Union sanctions on these police officers through a mechanism established in December 2020 to tackle significant human rights abuses in non-EU countries.

Such sanctions could encompass measures such as barring entry into the European Union, freezing assets within EU territory, and prohibiting engagement in business activities with European entities.

‘Worrying context of repression of journalists..’

NewsClick reported citing Celia Mercier, Reporters Without Borders that the actions of the Delhi Police Special Cell against journalists associated with NewsClick represent “one of the most blatant attacks on press freedom in India”.

“These raids, carried out on an unprecedented scale, with the deployment of 500 police officers, are an alarming step in an already worrying context of repression of journalists. These acts of terror require urgent action on the part of the European Union. This would be a strong act to alert the international community on the unacceptable repression of journalists, and a necessary warning to the Indian authorities in the run-up to the general elections,” Mercier added.

Also Read: Newsclick Raids: 500 cops, 25 questions, 30 locations- Top updates of Delhi Police crackdown amid China fund allegation

Toby Cadman, Barrister and Founder of Guernica 37 Chambers said that the Delhi Police’s Special Cell seems to be one of the go-to bodies for the government of India to target critics, including journalists. “Their speciality lies in the use of the UAPA to target dissidents. Both the UN and multiple foreign governments have warned the UAPA is ripe for misuse by authorities,” Cadman added.

Earlier on October 3, 2023, raids were carried out at 88 locations within Delhi and seven others in different states by the police. These raids targeted individuals mentioned in the FIR as well as those whose names emerged during data analysis, as stated by the police.

Also Read: Interpol cites ‘misuse of UAPA’, rejects India’s Red Corner plea for Khalistan separatist

Approximately 300 electronic devices were seized from both the NewsClick offices and the homes of the journalists who were under investigation.

In the aftermath of the raids, the Special Cell interrogated a total of 46 individuals, including nine female journalists.

India ranks 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 28 Mar 2024, 11:59 AM IST

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