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The action against the leading Hindi-language daily Dainik Bhaskar and the television channel Bharat Samachar has attracted criticism.
Indian tax authorities have raided a prominent newspaper and TV channel critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to allegations of harassment.
There was no official comment from authorities on Thursday’s raids against Hindi-language daily Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar station.
Local media reported that the tax authorities launched searches in several locations, including the capital New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. They quoted unnamed tax officials as saying they had “conclusive evidence of fraud”.
With a readership of millions, Bhaskar has released a series of reports on the devastation caused by the pandemic in April and May and criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s management of the crisis.
On the main page of its website, a headline said the government’s move was due to its fear of “real journalism” and emphasized that the news outlets had tried to “keep the right death toll from the coronavirus pandemic for the country”.
“Whether it’s about [throwing] corpses in the Ganges or… hide corona deaths[virus], Bhaskar showed fearless journalism,” it said.
Most experts believe that India’s official death toll of more than 414,000 is a huge undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading.
Most Extensive research but speaking of the devastation of the pandemic released Tuesday, he said the country’s additional deaths could be as much as 10 times the official death toll, making it likely modern India’s worst human tragedy.
‘Not an ounce of criticism’
Modi’s government has long been accused of trying to suppress critical reporting in the world’s largest democracy, something it denies. India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 Press Freedom Index.
Rajasthan’s chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, said the raids were a brutal attempt to suppress the media.
“The Modi government cannot tolerate even an iota of its criticism,” Gehlot, who is the main opposition party, wrote on Twitter.
Modes was accused on Tuesday by the Congress party of “treason” and endangering national security after revelations that dozens of Indians were potential targets of snooping through the Israeli-made spyware Pegasus.
It came on the back of a major research published on Sunday by a consortium of media organisations.
The leaked list, shared with news outlets by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and rights group Amnesty International, revealed the identities of people targeted by more than 300 of those phone numbers in India, including politicians, dozens of journalists, businessmen and even two ministers in the Modi government.
Arfa Khanum Sherwani, editor-in-chief of The Wire publication, said on Twitter that the raids against the news outlets were “undoubtedly the first major impact of Pegasus Expose”, demonstrating how “nervous the government is”.
First Dainik Bhaskar and now Bharat Samachar of UP, the last few Hindi News organizations that spoke the truth to power, are under attack.
This is undoubtedly the first major impact of Pegasus Expose and how nervous the government is.
Jab jab ye sarkar darti hai, Agencies ko aage karti hai..
— Arfa Khanum Sherwani (@khanumarfa) July 22, 2021
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