The process becomes the punishment: NewsClick’s Prabir Purkayastha on the ED raids

16 February 2021
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

At around 8 am on 9 February, the Enforcement Directorate launched simultaneous raids at eight locations associated with the digital news portal NewsClick. This included the website’s office in South Delhi’s Said-ul-Ajaib locality, and the residences of the editor-in-chief and founder Prabir Purkayastha, another editor, Pranjal Pandey and five staff members from the editorial and accounts teams. The raids at six staff members’ residences wrapped up on the same night, while the raid at the office continued for over 38 hours and ended on the night of 10 February. But the raid at Purkayastha’s house lasted 113 hours and ended at 1.30 am on 14 February. Neither Purkayastha, nor his partner Gita Hariharan, an author was allowed to leave the house for the entire duration.

Meanwhile, media reports quoted ED officials, who said that the raids were linked to foreign remittances and charges of money laundering. A statement released by the website on 15 February said, “We respect the sanctity of the legal process and do not intend to indulge in a media trial. That said, we wish to confirm that the selective allegations being made against us in a section of the media are misleading, unfounded and without basis in fact or law. We will respond to the relevant allegations in the appropriate forum.”

Shahid Tantray, a multimedia reporter at The Caravan spoke to Purkayastha the day after the raid. He talked about NewsClick, its association with the Left and its core focus, the media, the Emergency and the raids. “We are transparent in what we have done; everything has been done according to the law,” he told Tantray.

Shahid Tantray: Could you tell us about NewsClick, and your journey into journalism?
Prabir Purkayastha: I am not from the field of journalism; I’ve written articles but that’s about it. I do write a fair amount on various issues but I am not a journalist. So, why would I start something like NewsClick? That’s a legitimate question that needs to be asked and for me to answer. It started from my feeling that we, our generation, is missing out on the fact that this generation, your generation, my son’s [Pratik] generation, they are not going to get their content—what is happening in the world, how to look at it—from print, anymore. Text is something that’s not their primary way of acquiring knowledge or understanding.

Your generation is a much more visual generation than our generation, and there is a reason for it. When we were kids, our outer world was through texts, even cartoons and comic books were rare. Our primary information source and understanding of the world came from text. For your generation, we stuck you in front of the television even before you could read. You are much more visually literate as a generation.

Shahid Tantray is a multimedia reporter at The Caravan. He tweets at @shahidtantray.

Keywords: Newsclick raid Enforcement Directorate Freedom of Press media freedom Emergency left