Indian tax officials raid newspaper that targeted Narendra Modi over the pandemic

Newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar, said tax inspectors visited its offices in the capital New Delhi and in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan early in the morning.

India was shocked by the reporting of bodies in the Ganges River during the brutal second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic this spring. It criticized officials for under-reporting of Covid-19 deaths and challenged state officials and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to handle the crisis.

“The government has clamped down on the group that represents an accurate picture of what happened to the country during the second wave of COVID-19,” the newspaper wrote in a report on the raids published on Thursday. home page Its Hindi version. 63 year old company It also publishes newspapers in Gujarati and Marathi languages.

The newspaper said in its report that the tax officials also raided here. Homes of several Dainik Bhaskar employees, and phones of those who were present in its offices were confiscated.

“The government is doing its job and we are doing ours,” Dainik Bhaskar national editor Om Gaur told CNN Business. “The truth is always bitter, but we check all our facts before publishing,”

In May, Gaur led the newspaper’s coverage of bodies floating in the Ganges, as the official death toll from Covid-19 began to cross 4,000 a day. However, experts, both Indian and international, say that these figures do not paint the right picture.

A working paper published this week by US-based Center for Global Development found that India’s number of excess deaths during the pandemic could be up to ten times the official toll.

An estimated additional deaths were between 3.4 million and 4.9 million in India between January 2020 and June 2021, the US think tank said – compared to nearly 400,000 deaths reported by the Indian health ministry.

Gaur had said, “The state authorities have tried to block our coverage several times over the past few days and even threatened us with a court case.” Told CNN Business in May

Central Board of Direct Taxes spokesperson did not comment on this A request for comment from CNN Business. But several top opposition politicians said the newspaper was being punished for publishing critical reports about Modi’s handling of the second wave.

“No one would have thought that the Modi government would be so scared,” the national opposition party, Congress, tweeted In response to the raid.
“Attack on journalists and media houses is yet another brutal attempt to strangle democracy,” wrote Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal and leader of a regional opposition party, in a Twitter post. “#DainikBhaskar bravely pointed out the way @narendramodi ji handled the entire #COVID crisis in the wrong way and took the nation through its worst days in the midst of a fierce pandemic.”

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is from a smaller opposition party, said the raids were a clear indication that Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Will not forgive those who challenge it.

“That’s a very dangerous way of thinking,” he couple In a tweet in Hindi. Kejriwal too retweeted A post from Dainik Bhaskar’s account which read “I am independent.”
Meanwhile, Press Club of India, said It “condemns such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to prevent independent media from discharging its duty of serving the society.”
According to Reporters Without BordersIndia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists “trying to do their job properly”. This places India at 142nd position out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.
in 2017India’s Central Bureau of Investigation raids the offices and homes of the founders of NDTV, a top broadcaster often seen as critical of the Modi government. The agency said it was investigating a bank loanhandjob While NDTV called it an attempt to undermine “democracy and freedom of expression in India”.

– Isha Mitra contributed to this report


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