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Dainik Bhaskar hits back after IT raids, says government scared of ‘true journalism’

Opposition leaders said this is the government’s attack on journalism and the news publication is paying the price for “exposing the government’s mismanagement” of the Covid-19 second wave

Media group Dainik Bhaskar has condemned the income-tax raids on their offices early Thursday and said that the government is “scared of true journalism”.

Tax raids were conducted at the premises of the media group and an Uttar Pradesh-based news channel Bharat Samachar. Some 100 officials searched around 30 locations in multiple cities across Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Gujarat over alleged tax evasion.

The Income-Tax Department conducted searches at the promoters' residences and offices as well.

Bharat Samachar’s premises were also raided in Lucknow. It is said that the channel’s has been recently critical of the UP government.

Citing some examples of “why the government is scared of their journalism”, Dainik Bhaskar said in a statement on their website, “During the second wave, for six months, Bhaskar presented to the country the true picture of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation. Be it the matter of floating dead bodies in the Ganges or the underrepresented death count due to the pandemic, Bhaskar showed fearless journalism and brought the truth in front of the public.”

Bhaskar said that employees present in the offices, including those from the night shift, were not allowed to leave and their mobile phones were confiscated. They said the I-T team was not accompanied by any women officers even though women employees were present in the offices.

Meanwhile, responding to the Congress' charge that the raids were intended to throttle the voice of democracy, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur defended the I-T action.

"Agencies are doing their own work and there is no interference...One should take complete information and in its absence sometimes many issues come up that are far from the truth..," he told reporters at a Cabinet briefing.

The Income Tax Department conducted multi-city raids against two prominent media groups—Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar— on charges of tax evasion, official sources said.

Opposition leaders were quick to condemn the raids and said this was the government’s attack on journalism and that the news publication was paying the price for exposing the government’s mismanagement of Covid-19’s second wave.

Congress’ General Secretary Randeep Surjewala asked “How much more will you strangle the media?”

Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh tweeted that it was an “undeclared emergency”.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee condemned the “brutal attempt to stifle democracy”.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also expressed his protest.

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said that the raids should be stopped immediately.

Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh also tweeted about the raids and said that this was Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s attack on journalism.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal linked the raids to Dainik Bhaskar’s coverage of the Pegasus report.

The Press Club of India also condemned “such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies”.

During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dainik Bhaskar group had severely criticised the government over their handling of the pandemic.

Through a series of stories on the rising deaths, they had reported how bodies were being dumped along the river Ganga. Their Covid-related coverage was noticed globally and was carried by publications such as NY Times, The Guardian, BBC, CNN and Singapore Times.

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