Same bogus and trumped-up charges: NewsClick on FIR registered by CBI

‘These are the same allegations which have been made time and again by different investigating agencies and using the same allegations, offences under different acts are being alleged by registering multiple FIRs’

New Delhi October 14 dmanewsdesk: NewsClick on Friday described the FIR registered by the CBI — the fifth probe against the news site for allegedly accepting illegal funds from a China-based US investor — as containing the “same bogus and trumped-up charges”.

The latest statement from the anti-establishment portal — whose employees and associates were raided by Delhi police last week in connection with an anti-terror probe — came two days after CBI raids on its office and the home of its jailed editor-in-chief.

“These are the same allegations which have been made time and again by different investigating agencies and using the same allegations, offences under different acts are being alleged by registering multiple FIRs,” NewsClick said.

“All funding received by NewsClick has been through the appropriate banking channels and has been reported to the relevant authorities, as required by law.”

“This has been confirmed by the Reserve Bank of India to the Economic Offences Wing in proceedings before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi,” NewsClick added.

The news outlet added: “This is the fifth agency deployed by the Central government to investigate the same bogus and trumped-up charges against NewsClick. It is a desperate attempt to silence the news website which has consistently spoken truth to power through its stories portraying the face of real India.

“It is noteworthy that despite having had access to all of NewsClick’s files and accounts, and after a thorough and extensive interrogation of its Directors and employees, the Enforcement Directorate has not been able to file a complaint against NewsClick over the past two+ years.

“The Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police has not been able to file a charge sheet against NewsClick for offences under the Indian Penal Code. The Income Tax Department has not been able to defend its actions before the courts of law, and the FIR under UAPA is untenable and bogus.”

The CBI’s FIR, registered under the Foreign Contributions Regulatory Act, names PPK NewsClick Studio Pvt. Ltd — the company that owns the website — NewsClick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, US investors Neville Roy Singham and Jason Pfetcher, as well as unknown persons as accused.

The FIR, seen by The Telegraph, was filed on October 7 on a complaint from the Union home ministry. It accuses PPK NewsClick of receiving “unexplained export remittance of Rs 28.46 Crore from four foreign entities in violation of FCRA, 2010. Further M/s Worldwide Media Holdings LLC funded Rs 9.59 Crore through FDI into PPK Newsclik (sic) in contravention of provisions of FCRA Act, 2010”.

Purkayastha, Pfetcher and Singham are accused of infusing “opaque foreign fund” into PPK NewsClick, violating Section 3(1) of the FCRA, which prohibits news companies and journalists from receiving foreign contributions.

The definition of “foreign contributions” in the Act exempts earnings in lieu of goods sold or services rendered to a foreign client.

In the FIR registered by Delhi police’s special cell under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Singham is described as an “active member” of the Communist Party of China, and Pfetcher as his “close associate”.

Pfetcher, manager of Worldwide Media Holdings (WMH), had denied any wrongdoing in a statement issued after the arrest of Purkayastha and NewsClick HR head Amit Chakraborty.

He had said: “When asked, WMH has provided the Indian authorities confirmation regarding the provenance of the funds invested in NewsClick by WMH. WMH has also provided ample evidence that it is and has always been in good standing with the state of Delaware where it is incorporated, despite false information being circulated that WMH was a defunct entity when it invested in NewsClick.”

After Delhi High Court dismissed pleas from Purkayastha and the wheelchair-bound Chakraborty that challenged their arrest and remand, NewsClick had tweeted: “While disappointed by the Delhi High Court verdict, NewsClick reiterates that the arrest of our Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and admin officer Amit Chakraborty was illegal and in violation of due procedure. We are currently examining the judgment of the Court in order to pursue our legal remedies.”

The case is unprecedented in India in its use of the anti-terror law to simultaneously raid the homes of scores of journalists and activists, as well as seize electronic devices used by them and their family members.

Source: The Telegraph online