India: IJU Concern Over Police Raids at The Wire02 Nov, 2022
The Indian Journalists Union has expressed grave concern over Delhi Police Crime Branch raiding homes of The Wire’s founding Editors Siddharth Varadarajan, M.K. Venu, Sidharth Bhatia, Deputy Editor Jahnavi Sen and product-cum-business head Mithun Kidambi in Delhi and Mumbai, and seizing various devices. A clear intimidation tactic, said the IJU.
According to reports, the raids on 31 October were in relation to an FIR lodged against the Wire and its Editors by BJP leader and IT department head Amit Malviya. The police swung into action and also carried out searches at The Wire’s office at Bhagat Singh Market in Delhi. As per a statement issued by the Wire, ‘the crime branch took away hard disks from the office and phones, ipads and computers as well, without as much mentioning the hash value of the equipment, a requirement to maintain the integrity of the data.’
In a statement, the IJU President and former member of Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and Vice President of the International Federation of Journalists Sabina Inderjit said the haste in which the Delhi police carried out searches and seizures smacks of intention to not just harass and intimidate the Editors and journalists but physically harm the independent online media organisation, which has been critical of the Modi government.
The IJU said it was pertinent to note that Delhi police didn’t follow procedure and rules of investigation as required in the complaint of ‘criminal defamation’ filed by Malviya. Given that the Wire’s Ombudsman has admitted to serious lapses in its reportage on stories pertaining to Meta with references to Malviya and since withdrawn the reports and issued an apology, the Delhi police should have shown restraint. The action of the police will have a chilling effect on journalists, impacting the independence of media. The IJU demands that the authorities refrain from such bullying tactics as well as urged media to exercise extra caution by checking facts and adhere to ethical journalism guidelines.