Indian police raided the New Delhi offices of popular news website NewsClick and the residences of journalists and authors connected to it as part of an investigation into alleged illicit foreign funding of the media organisation, two government officials said on Tuesday
According to the officials and a few of the journalists, laptops and cell phones were seized as part of the investigation into the online news station NewsClick.
"A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda," said an official in the interior ministry overseeing the raids by the Delhi Police.
The raids were a part of the Enforcement Directorate's probe into possible money laundering by NewsClick, according to the official.
More than a dozen journalists' residences and the homes of other writers connected to NewsClick, according to a different ministry official, were the targets of the raids.
"We have not arrested anyone and the search operations are still underway," the second official said.
Due to their lack of authorisation to speak to the media, both officials declined to give their names. A representative for the Delhi Police stated that he was unable to comment.
Officials from NewsClick were unavailable for comment right away.
According to the company's website, it focuses on "progressive movements" while reporting on news from India and other countries.
In August, a New York Times article identified NewsClick as a component of a global network that was receiving funding from American millionaire Neville Roy Singham, reportedly to distribute Chinese propaganda. According to officials, this is when the probe got underway.
Prabir Purkayastha, the founder of NewsClick, stated at the time that the accusations were not new and that the company would contest them in court.
The raids have the Press Club of India extremely concerned.
Using investigative agencies, the government has allegedly targeted and repressed the media for the past nine years, according to a statement by the INDIA Alliance, a coalition of 28 opposition political parties.
The "coercive" actions of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are "directed against only those media organisations and journalists that speak truth to power", the coalition said.
According to a BJP spokesperson, raids were warranted because foreign funding for media organisations needed to be investigated by law enforcement.
India's standing in the World Press Freedom Index, a yearly ranking by the non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders, has dropped to 161st from 150th last year, its lowest position ever. The results of the group are rejected by the Modi administration, which also questions its methodology and asserts that India has a thriving and free press.