I-T Raids on Offices of Dainik Bhaskar, Bharat Samachar and Homes of Promoters
Moneylife Digital Team 22 July 2021
Alleging tax evasion, the income-tax (I-T) department on Thursday conducted raids on offices of Dainik Bhaskar in multiple cities as well as the home of its promoter at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Separately, the I-T department also reportedly conducting raids in Uttar Pradesh on Bharat Samachar offices as well residences of its editors and employees. 
According to media reports, the searches are being conducted across Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and a few locations in Maharashtra.
One of the largest newspaper groups, Dainik Bhaskar has been at the forefront of reporting on the scale of devastation in the second wave of COVID during April-May this year.
About a month ago, The New York Times had published op-ed by Dainik Bhaskar's editor Om Gaur on COVID deaths in India. The op-ed titled "The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie" was critical of the Indian government's handling of the COVID second wave.
According to reports, the I-T department has also gone after the chief editor of Bharat Samachar news channel and its promoters in UP. "Searches taking place at places associated with Mr Misra and the channel's UP head Virendra Singh. They have been highlighting crucial issues of UP," reports say.
According to an update shared by Bharat Samachar on their Twitter handle, raids have been conducted at the media organisation's office. The raids began early on Thursday morning and were continuing till the time of filing this report.

The residences of its editor-in-chief, Brijesh Mishra and state head, Virendra Singh, have also reportedly been raided. The shared update indicates that raids have been conducted at the houses of other employees of Bharat Samachar also.

In a statement, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) says it is concerned that government agencies are being used as a coercive tool to suppress free and independent journalism. This is more disturbing given the recent media reports on the widespread surveillance of journalists and civil society activists using the Pegasus software.

"The raids come against the backdrop of in-depth reporting on the pandemic by Dainik Bhaskar, which brought to fore the gross mismanagement by government authorities and the immense loss of human lives. In a recent webinar hosted by the EGI, Om Gaur, the national editor of Dainik Bhaskar had stated that their advertising from government departments had been cut after the recent critical coverage of state authorities. Bharat Samachar, too, has been subjected to raids by the tax authorities. It is one of the few channels in UP that has been asking difficult questions from the state government with respect to pandemic management. Notwithstanding the merits of the case, the timing of these raids is concerning given the recent critical coverage by both the organisations," the EGI added.

Reacting on the I-T raids on media houses, in a tweet, the Press Club of India says it deplores such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to deter the independent media from discharging their duty to serve the society.

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