New Delhi: The Income Tax department is conducting raids on multiple premises owned by the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper group.
Separate searches are also on at premises owned by Lucknow-based Bharat Samachar television channel and its editor, Brajesh Misra.
Searches are being carried out at multiple locations by multiple teams, including the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper’s promoters’ residences and offices, news agency ANI has reported.
Thirty raid locations are spread across Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal and Indore), Rajasthan’s Jaipur and Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, according to a senior editor of the paper, who spoke to NDTV. At least 100 IT department officials were deployed.
“Agencies do their own work, we don’t interfere in their functioning. I would also like to say that facts need to be found before reporting about any incident. Sometimes lack of information is misleading,” Anurag Thakur, I&B and Youth Affairs and Sports, reportedly told the media at a cabinet briefing.
Later in the afternoon, Dainik Bhaskar reported that the IT team has raided the homes of many employees, confiscated mobiles of employees present in the offices and barred them from going out. “Night shift workers have also been barred from leaving the office,” the report in Hindi said.
Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Digvijaya Singh also tweeted that raids were on in “half a dozen” locations, including at Bhopal’s Press Complex.
The former chief minister also tweeted that this was a “vindictive” act and an example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Gujarat” governance model.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot also condemned the raids on the two media houses.
This is the second time in recent months that a news outlet has been raided over government claims of economic offences. In February, the Enforcement Directorate raided the residences of several officials and journalists associated with NewsClick.in, an independent media portal based in Delhi for several days. The Delhi high court in early July granted its editor-in-chief extension on protection from arrest.
Headquartered in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal, Dainik Bhaskar is among the most circulated Hindi dailies in the country.
In the last few months, Dainik Bhaskar‘s editions had focused on in-depth coverage of the pandemic, bringing the everyday issues that the second wave brought, out in the forefront.
A report on Dainik Bhaskar‘s coverage on Newslaundry points out that the paper had been indefatigable in highlighting aspects of COVID-19 mismanagement that the governments at the Union and in states did not want known.
Their coverage recently tackled the avowed cluelessness displayed by governments by publishing the number of the state BJP chief, C.R. Patil, who claimed to possess a stash of remdesivir when the injection was scarce. When Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani was asked about it, he had reportedly asked reporters to ask Patil, thus paving the way for the newspaper to run a headline with Patil’s number so people could do just that.
Om Gaur, one of the editors of the paper, had also written an op-ed on the New York Times, headlined ‘The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie.’
The paper has also been one of the few Hindi dailies to maintain coverage as The Wire, along with 16 other media partners, releases reports of possible and successful surveillance on politicians, journalists, activists and others with the use of the Pegasus spyware which is sold to government clients by the Israeli NSO Group.
A report by The Wire on coverage of the findings of the Pegasus project had noted that regional newspapers have been more enthusiastic about explaining the Pegasus software to their readers with the help of infographics, unlike some national and business dailies which preferred to put the story on the back pages.
Several participants on social media have drawn the parallel between Dainik Bhaskar‘s fearless coverage and the raids now.