Homes of staff also searched over receipt of foreign funds.
The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday conducted searches on the premises of a digital news platform, NewsClick, and several other places in connection with alleged receipt of about ₹30 crore from overseas in the past three years, said a senior agency official.
“Truth shall prevail. We have full faith in the legal system,” said a brief statement by Newsclick in the evening, adding that the raids were still under way and a full statement would be released only after the process was over.
Earlier, speaking briefly on the issue to some reporters, Newsclick editor Pranjal, accompanied by two ED officials, said: “There has been an ongoing raid since morning. We were shown a notice. Right now our documents are being checked. We are co-operating and will continue to co-operate.”
The ED official said: “The searches have been carried out under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, based on an FIR registered by the Delhi Police a few months ago. We have so far found evidence showing receipt of about ₹30 crore from abroad. The funds also came from a U.S.-based company, which had already been liquidated. Another U.S. firm, said to be a shareholder, is under the scanner.”
According to the agency, the company running NewsClick allegedly showed exports from a premises which was closed for the past about two years.
The searches started around 10 a.m. at the Saidulajab office of NewsClick in South Delhi. The ED team, which was carrying a notice authorising the search, sought certain documents from the new organisation’s representatives for scrutiny. The agency officials also visited the residential premises of its directors, including the portal’s editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, and editor Pranjal.
DIGIPUB News India Foundation issued a statement, strongly condemning the searches “at the office of NewsClick and the homes of its directors and editor Prabir Purkayastha”.
“DIGIPUB News India Foundation believes that the ED raids on NewsClick, its editor and directors, is a clear attempt to suppress journalism critical of the government and its allies. Such use of State agencies to intimidate journalists and suppress adversarial journalism is detrimental to not only the freedom of the press, but also the very idea of democratic accountability. Everyone emerges poorer in the long run,” it said.
It demanded that the government stopped the ED action against NewsClick forthwith and make clear why the news organisation was raided.
“A free press, so integral to the preservation of democracy, can’t survive if journalists aren’t allowed to carry their professional work without fear,” said the Foundation.