NEW YORK, Jul 23 (APP):The Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP), an independent watchdog body, has asked Indian authorities to immediately stop occupying the offices of Dainik Bhaskar, a media group’s Hindi-language newspaper and the home of its managing director, and cease harassing the group’s news channel Bharat Samachar, as well as the outlets’ staff.
“The use of tax raids against media properties like Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar is a vile tactic transparently aimed at intimidating news outlets that report critically on India’s government, and it needs to stop, now,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, said in a statement.
“India must revive its long tradition of press freedom, drop these investigations, and allow journalists to report freely on matters of public interest,” Butler added.
According to news reports, over 100 federal income tax officials raided the headquarters of the privately owned media group Dainik Bhaskar, in Bhopal city in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and 30 of its regional offices in the capital New Delhi and the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra on allegations of tax evasion.
The officials reportedly confiscated mobile devices of employees present in the offices. Om Gaur, national editor of Dainik Bhaskar in Bhopal, confirmed the raids to CPJ via phone, according to its press release..
Gaur told CPJ that as of this evening, officials continued to occupy the media group’s offices and the home of the media group’s managing director, Sudhir Agarwal, also in Bhopal.
Also today, income tax officials raided the office of the privately owned broadcast news channel Bharat Samachar in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the homes of its editor, Brajesh Misra, and its head of reporting in the state, Virendra Singh, according to news reports and the news channel’s reporting in a video on Twitter. CPJ said it contacted Misra and Singh via messaging app but did not receive any response.
CPJ also said it was unable to determine whether tax officials have left Bharat Samachar’s office or the homes of its journalists.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Bharat Samachar indicated that the channel was not intimidated by the raids and would “continue speaking the truth.”
CPJ said it emailed the Income Tax Department for comment, but did not receive any response.