NewsClick raids: Journalism can’t be prosecuted as terrorism, media groups to CJI

Media persons turned up in large number at the Press Club of India to protest against multiple raids on a number of journalists associated with Newsclick. [Photo: X/PCI]

New Delhi: Sixteen media organizations have penned a letter to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, expressing their concern about the recent raids on the residences of journalists and professionals associated with the news portal NewsClick.

“Journalism cannot be prosecuted as terrorism,” the 16 organisation said in the letter.

These raids resulted in the confiscation of their mobile phones and laptops. The letter urges the judiciary to take action and establish guidelines to prevent arbitrary seizures of journalists’ devices. It also calls for guidelines governing the interrogation of journalists and the seizure of their belongings, ensuring that these actions are not conducted as unfounded fishing expeditions unrelated to any actual offenses.

Additionally, the letter requests that the court consider ways to hold state agencies and individual officers accountable when they exceed their legal authority or provide vague and open-ended investigations against journalists for their journalistic work.

The signatories of the letter include prominent media organizations and unions such as Digipub News India Foundation, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India New Delhi, Foundation for Media Professionals, Network of Women in Media (India), Chandigarh Press Club, National Alliance of Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists, Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, Free Speech Collective Mumbai, Mumbai Press Club, Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists, Press Association, Guwahati Press Club, and Indian Journalists’ Union.

The letter emphasizes that it is crucial for the higher judiciary to step in and halt the increasing use of investigating agencies against the media, considering the recent events. It specifically mentions the October 3rd raid by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on the homes of 46 journalists, editors, writers, and professionals associated with NewsClick. This resulted in the arrest of NewsClick’s editor-in-chief, Prabir Purkayastha, and human resources head, Amit Chakravarty, under stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The letter strongly opposes the use of the UAPA against journalists, asserting that journalism should not be treated as an act of terrorism.

The letter also references other cases, such as that of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who was granted bail after spending over two years in jail, and the tragic death of Father Stan Swamy while in custody in a UAPA case, to highlight the potential consequences journalists may face when charged under the UAPA, including prolonged detention before being granted bail.

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