India’s S/Court Orders Release of Journalist Accused of Receiving Illegal Funds

The Indian Supreme Court has ordered the release of the founding editor of a news outlet suspected by police of receiving illegal funds from China, ruling that his arrest was unconstitutional more than seven months later, according to his lawyers.

Early in October, police arrested Prabir Purkayastha and raided the NewsClick office in New Delhi, as well as the houses of journalists and writers affiliated with the English Language news website.

Purkayastha’s lawyer, Arshdeep Khurana, claims that the court did not notify him of the grounds for his arrest in a timely manner.

Purkayastha will be released from custody after furnishing a bail bond to a lower court, said Nitin Saluja, another lawyer in the case.

The investigation began after a report in the New York Times in August identified NewsClick as part of a global network receiving funds from American billionaire, Neville Roy Singham, allegedly to publish Chinese propaganda.

Purkayastha was accused by police of scheming to undermine India’s sovereignty and foment disaffection, claiming that he received substantial sums of money from China to spread biased news criticizing Indian policies and projects while promoting Chinese policies and programmes.

At the time, NewsClick stated that it did not publish news or material at the request of any Chinese entity or authority, and that it does not follow Neville Roy Singham’s content guidelines.

Media rights watchdogs and opposition parties in India had accused the inquiry of the surrounding allegations of being part of a media crackdown, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had denied.