The Income Tax department, on Thursday, July 22, conducted raids at several office premises of Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar and a local news channel of Uttar Pradesh, Bharat Samachar, over allegations of tax evasions.
Around 100 officers raided 30 outlets, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Pune, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. The officers also searched the residences and offices of the promoters of Dainik Bhaskar Group. Reportedly, the officers confiscated the mobile phones and prohibited everyone from leaving the premises. The digital team working on the night shift was released at 12:30 pm.
The search team raided the Lucknow office and the residences of Bharat Samachar's Editor-in-chief Brajesh Mishra, state head Virendra Singh, and employees and the channel office.
I-T Officials At Editorial Desk
In a major development, the national editor of the Hindi daily, Om Gaur, told NDTV about the officials' interference in the editorial team.
The department, whose primary work is of search, seizure and reviewing tax documents, was found at the editorial desk of the office, asking to make changes in their web stories before publishing. The officials directed the team to edit and delete a couple of stories.
Raids Attempt To Stifle Democracy
Opposition leaders and netizens condemned the department's raids on the media outlet, saying it was an attempt to muffling democratic rights.
'Centre Does Not Interfere'
Denying the allegations, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said that it was the agency's decision and the central government does not interfere with their work.
"Agencies do their work; we don't interfere in their functioning. I would also like to say that facts need to be found before reporting any incident. Sometimes lack of information is misleading," the media quoted the minister as saying.
This was the only official response from the centre. The I-T department has not released any official statement so far. However, an official at the premises of Bharat Samachar said the search operations were conducted after having conclusive evidence of tax fraud.
Government's Handling Of COVID-19 Pandemic
Reportedly, both the media outlets have been critical of the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Dainik Bhaskar unearthed several stories of under-reporting of testing figures, lack of medical equipment, measures taken to curb the outbreak, and highlighted its devastating impact on the country.
After raids, the Hindi daily, on its website, put out a message saying they were raided for showing the 'true image of the government's inefficiency in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
"I am independent because I am Bhaskar. Bhaskar is only about what readers want," the site read in Hindi.
Organisation Releases 10 Major Stories Reported
After the raids, Dainik Bhaskar published a report containing 10 significant stories which they reported in the last six months to assure how the media has focused on raising issues of public concern by questioning the government.
"The Income Tax Department is raiding us. The government is doing its job, but we believe that only readers can judge our work properly," it read.
It published stories that included reports of several dead bodies found in river Ganga, COVID-19 vaccination wastage in various states, manipulation of vaccination data in Bihar, hike in petrol and diesel rates, lack of oxygen, under-reporting of fatalities, reports of COVID tests not conducted in several villages of Uttar Pradesh, and so forth.