Indian tax authorities search media companies critical of the Modi government | Freedom of press

The movement against the main Hindi-language daily Dainik Bhaskar and the Bharat Samachar television channel has drawn criticism.

Indian tax authorities raided a leading newspaper and television station that criticized the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, triggering charges of intimidation.

There has been no official comment from authorities on Thursday’s raids on Hindi-language daily Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar station.

Local media reported that the tax department launched search operations in various locations including the capital, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra states. They quoted anonymous tax officials as saying they had “conclusive evidence of fraud.”

Enjoying a readership of millions, Bhaskar carried out a series of reports on the devastation caused by the pandemic in April and May and criticized the management of the crisis by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On the main page of its website, a headline said the government’s decision was due to its fear of “real journalism” and noted that news outlets had sought to “keep the right number of deaths from the pandemic of coronavirus in front of the country ”.

” Either it’s about [throwing] corpses in the Ganges or … hiding corona deaths[virus], Bhaskar has shown intrepid journalism, ”he said.

Most experts believe India’s official death toll of over 414,000 is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed these concerns as exaggerated and misleading.

most full search Yet, on the ravages of the pandemic, released on Tuesday, the excessive death toll in the country could be 10 times the official death toll, possibly making it the worst human tragedy in modern India.

“Not an iota of criticism”

Modi’s government has long been accused of trying to stifle critical reporting in the world’s largest democracy, which he denies. In Reporters Without Borders 2021 press freedom rankings, India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries.

Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of the state of Rajasthan, said the raids were a brazen attempt to suppress the media.

“The Modi government cannot tolerate even an iota of its criticism,” Gehlot, who belongs to the main opposition party in Congress, wrote on Twitter.

Modi was accused Tuesday by the Congress party of “betrayal” and compromising national security following revelations that dozens of Indians were potential targets of espionage by Israeli-made spyware Pegasus.

He came on the back of a great investigation released on Sunday by a consortium of media organizations.

The leaked list, shared with news outlets by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organization and rights group Amnesty International, showed the identities of those targeted with more than 300 such issues. phone calls in India, including politicians, dozens of journalists, businessmen and even two ministers of the Modi government.

Arfa Khanum Sherwani, editor-in-chief of The Wire, said on Twitter that the raids on media outlets were “without doubt the first major impact of Pegasus Expose”, showing how “the government is nervous”.

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