Responding to the arrests of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakravarty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) after a series of raids on the homes and offices of several journalists associated with the digital news media on Tuesday in Delhi and Mumbai, Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India, said:
“Journalism is not a crime. The NewsClick raids and the arrest of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty are the latest attempts by the Indian government to decimate independent and critical media. Authorities must immediately release Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty and allow them to carry out their work without any reprisals.
Journalism is not a crime.Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India
The NewsClick raids and the arrest of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty are the latest attempts by the Indian government to decimate independent and critical media.
“The UAPA is repeatedly weaponized by Indian authorities to intimidate, harass journalists, human rights defenders and activists violating their rights of freedom of expression and association. Its overbroad and vague definitions of ‘terrorist acts’ and other provisions are weaponized to violate fair trial rights and other human rights with impunity.
“The Indian authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone including to freedom of expression and association. Authorities must stop targeting independent media and immediately release any journalists detained on trumped-up or politically motivated charges and solely for their critical reporting.
“In the absence of a robust data protection law in India, the confiscation of phones and laptops of the NewsClick journalists also raises grave concerns of targeted digital surveillance by the Indian government. The grave attacks on human rights must stop.”
The homes and offices of reporters, consultants, editors and contributors associated with the organisation NewsClick were raided under the UAPA – India’s primary counter-terrorism law – for allegedly raising funds for terrorist acts and promoting enmity between different groups and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code amongst others.
According to Delhi Police, 46 journalists were questioned, two arrested and their phones, laptops and devices seized for further examination. The NewsClick Delhi office was sealed. Previously, in 2021 NewsClick was also raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the primary agency to investigate crimes under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act.
Newsclick is an independent digital news media platform that has been critical of the government of India and consistently raised human rights issues like the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act, crackdown on students and farmers protests and violence against minorities.
Recently, Amnesty International has published a new briefing examining the misuse and weaponization of laws like the UAPA which were specifically amended as a pre-condition to India becoming the 34th member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – a global terrorism financing and money laundering watchdog.
Arsenal Consulting have also documented and linked to Indian authorities the planting of evidence on the electronic devices of human rights defenders in India. In the name of fighting terrorism or maintaining law and order, governments are using a range of surveillance tactics that are impinging on the privacy of people across the world.
Amnesty International has repeatedly documented the Indian authorities’ targeting of journalists, coupled with a broader crackdown on peaceful dissent, in the country.