IJU condemns raids on media houses

NEW DELHI, 22 Jul: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned the income tax raids at 30-odd locations of one of the largest Hindi media groups, Dainik Bhaskar, and another at Uttar Pradesh-based TV news channel Bharat Samachar on Thursday for alleged “tax evasion.”

“The timing of the raids, especially after the second wave of Covid-19, smacks of sinister design of the authorities to stifle press freedom and intimidate critical media,” the IJU said.

Early on Thursday morning, 100-odd men from the IT department raided 30 locations of the Dainik Bhaskar in Indore, Bhopal, Delhi, Jaipur, Maharashtra and Gujarat, as well as the offices and homes of the group’s promoters. The Lucknow office and also Bharat Samachar’s editor’s house was raided, reportedly to “examine tax documents,” though these are seen more as being linked to the channel’s highlighting Covid mismanagement.

In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general Sabina Inderjit said that, while the authorities claim that the raids were based on “conclusive evidence of tax fraud,” the timing needs to be taken note of.

“A critical media, particularly during the second wave of Covid, has increasingly come under attack by the ruling dispensation by adopting various means, including now IT raids. Media outfits NewsClick and The Quint were raided in February 2021 and October 2018, respectively,” they said.

“While the union would refrain from commenting on the charges levelled against the Bhaskar group, a pertinent question worth asking the authorities is the timing of the raids,” the IJU said.

It said that the IT department’s harassing critical and independent media strikes at the roots of press freedom, and demanded that the government refrain from “such nefarious manoeuvres.”