By Muslim Mirror
On Wednesday, a number of journalist bodies voiced their concerns regarding the Delhi Police’s excessive and unreasonable searches and seizures at The Wire’s office and the homes of four of its editors.
The Wire’s founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu, and Sidharth Bhatia, as well as deputy editor Jahnavi Sen and the news website’s business director Mithun Kidambi, had their homes searched by the police on Monday. Amit Malviya, the head of social media for the Bharatiya Janata Party, had filed a complaint, which led to the officers seizing their electronic equipment.
The Delhi Police filed a first information complaint on the four editors on October 31 alleging cheating, forgery, defamation, and criminal conspiracy in connection with several retractions of articles saying that Instagram removed any reported posts by Malviya without inspection.
On social media, several journalists’ bodies have raised concerns over the raids.
The Editors Guild of India said that it was “disturbed by the manner in which Delhi Police carried out search and seizures at homes of senior editors of the Wire, as well as their office.”
It urged “police to adhere to rules of investigation and protect integrity of sensitive journalistic information.”
EGI is disturbed by the manner in which Delhi Police carried out search and seizures at homes of senior editors of the Wire, as well as their office. Urges police to adhere to rules of investigation and protect integrity of sensitive journalistic information. pic.twitter.com/N75Y4y6dD0
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) November 2, 2022
“Moreover, digital devices of editors and journalists would have sensitive information pertaining to journalistic sources and stories under work, the confidentiality of which can be seriously compromised in such seizures,” EGi said in a statement.
The search by the authorities “smacks of mala fide intentions,” according to the umbrella organization DIGIPUB News India Foundation, which is made up of 11 digital news publications, including The Wire.
Digipub's statement on police searches on the homes of the editors and a reporter of The Wire pic.twitter.com/ewZCIZNL4C
— DIGIPUB News India Foundation (@DigipubIndia) November 1, 2022
“A journalist or a media organisation that publishes a false report ought to be held accountable by it peers and civil society. But for the police to carry out an an immediate and arbitrary search of the media houses’s office and its editor’s homes, based entirely on a private complaint of defamation filed by a spokesperson of the ruling party, smacks of mala fide intentions. Moreover, the danger of these searches being used as an excuse to seize and duplicate confidential and sensitive data held by The Wire cannot be dismissed,” Digipub said in its statement.
The Press Club of India, along with the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Press Association, Working News Cameraman Association, Indian Journalist Union, and Delhi Union of Journalists claimed that the Delhi Police’s response to the BJP spokesperson’s request was a clear case of vendetta.
PCI along with Delhi Union of Journalists, Press Association, Working News Cameraman Association, Indian Journalist Union, Digipub News India Foundation and KUWJ express concern over searches conducted by Delhi Police at the Wire Editors and reporter houses. pic.twitter.com/CATcWpKH00
— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) November 2, 2022
One of the best self-regulation principles, according to the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, is The Wire’s retracting the articles and promising to review editorial errors internally.
The BUJ condemns raids on The Wire. Statement here: pic.twitter.com/Y9iIRxYWQj
— bujmedia (@bujmedia) November 1, 2022
“The Wire’s admission of lapses was quickly seized upon by the BJP as well as the Delhi Police to conduct raids is highly regrettable and deplorable,” the BUJ statement read.
“Clearly vendetta politics is at play here, given The Wire’s reputation as an independent and critical news portal,” it added.
Beh Lih Yi, the coordinator of the Asia programme for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said “The raids on the homes of The Wire editors is an excessive reaction by the Indian authorities.”
“The Wire has voluntarily withdrawn its reportage on Meta and Amit Malviya, apologized to its readers, and initiated an internal review. We call on authorities and politicians to cease the harassment,” the CPJ said.
#India: Delhi police raid @thewire_in office and homes of its editors over retracted Meta reports@CPJAsia urges Indian authorities to stop harassing employees of the news website and let them work freely https://t.co/Jxwv5Gh4ev pic.twitter.com/eEjyCdNd6R
— CPJ Asia (@CPJAsia) October 31, 2022