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The Editors Guild of India said there is a "dangerous trend of government agencies harassing and intimidating" independent media
After the Income Tax Department conducted surveys at offices of news media organisations Newslaundry and Newsclick, the Editors Guild of India, while expressing its concerns, slammed the move. It said there is a "dangerous trend of government agencies harassing and intimidating" independent media must stop as it undermines constitutional democracy.
A team of the I-T Department had conducted separate surveys at offices of Newslaundry and Newsclick on Friday (September 10, 2021) to verify certain tax payment details and remittances made by them.
"The guild is deeply concerned that such indiscriminate seizure of journalists' data, which could include sensitive information such as details of sources, stories underworks and other journalistic data, is in violation of free speech and freedom of the press," the Guild said in a statement.
It added, “While they were officially labelled as ‘surveys’ by the I-T officials, according to the statement issued by Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder of Newslaundry, this was a clear intermediately and latent attack on their rights and therefore press freedom."
"It is learnt that the I-T team made clones of Sekhri's mobile and laptop, as well as some other office machines, And no hash value was given to them. This is clearly beyond the mandate of service as defined under section 133 A of the income tax act which only allows data pertaining to the investigation to be copied, and certainly not personal and professional date of journalists. It is also in violation of procedures laid out in the Information Technology Act 2000," the Editors Guild of India said.
The EGI said, "Both NewsClick and Newslaundry have been critical of policies and functioning of the union government."
This is not the first time the Income Tax Department visited the office of Newslaundry. They had also visited the Newslaundry office in June. While, in February, the Enforcement Directorate had conducted raids at the office of Newsclick as well as the homes of their senior journalists and officials.
The Editors Guild of India said, "The dangerous trend of government agencies harassing and intimidating independent media must stop as it undermines our constitutional democracy." It added earlier in July this year, I-T raids were conducted at the offices of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar as well as a Lucknow-based news channel Bharat Samachar.