NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian news portal being investigated over alleged illegal funding said on Wednesday it does not publish propaganda and its funding had been received through appropriate banking channels.
NewsClick said in a statement it has been accused of crimes under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for purportedly carrying Chinese propaganda on its website.
“We strongly condemn these actions of a government that refuses to respect journalistic independence, and treats criticism as sedition or ‘anti-national’ propaganda,” it said.
“All funding received by NewsClick has been through the appropriate banking channels and has been reported to the relevant authorities as required by law.”
The statement came a day after police raided the New Delhi office of the English-language news site and the homes of journalists and writers as part of an investigation into suspected illegal foreign funding of it, two government officials said.
Its founder and a senior administrative officer were arrested.
“A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda,” an Interior Ministry official said.
The raids were part of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crime agency, into suspected money laundering by NewsClick, the official said.
Officials said on Tuesday the investigation began after a New York Times report in August named NewsClick as part of a global network receiving funds from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham, allegedly to publish Chinese propaganda.
The NewsClick statement said it does not publish any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority, and does not take directions from Neville Roy Singham on its content.
The action against the news site has drawn condemnation from media groups and opposition political parties. The Editors Guild of India said it is concerned the raids are another attempt to muzzle the media.
Federal information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said investigating agencies are independent and “if someone has committed any wrong” they act on them.
(Reporting by YP Rajesh, editing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios)