Income-tax officials on Thursday raided across five states the offices of the Dainik Bhaskar, one of the country’s largest Hindi newspaper groups that have been at the forefront of reporting on the Narendra Modi government’s Covid mismanagement and the Pegasus snooping controversy.
Income-tax raids took place also on the Lucknow headquarters of the news channel Bharat Samachar, which has highlighted the Yogi Adityanath government’s Covid failures, as well as the home of its editor Brajesh Mishra and the homes and offices of its promoters.
The raids that began at 7 am were still continuing at most of the Dainik Bhaskar offices at 10 pm, while those on Bharat Samachar wound up around 8.30 pm.
Sources in the income-tax department claimed that the two media houses had been raided for suspected tax evasion. Late on Thursday night, the tax department tweeted that the searches were confined to financial affairs and not linked to editorial content. Dainik Bhaskar, the Bhopal-headquartered newspaper whose sister publication Divya Bhaskar is widely read in Gujarat, remained defiant through the day and ran a social media campaign, saying “the government was afraid of our journalism” and tweeting screenshots of some of the newspaper’s reports on Covid.
It posted a series of tweets in Hindi that said: “I am independent because I am Bhaskar. What shall rule Bhaskar is the readers’ will. Dainik Bhaskar is independent and will always keep on raising its voice in the interests of democracy.
“The government has got scared of true journalism. The income-tax raids on the Bhaskar group are for presenting the actual figures of Covid-related deaths and the dumping of bodies in the Ganga.”
Dainik Bhaskar’s national editor Om Gaur told the media: “I think the (Dainik Bhaskar) raid is the outcome of our aggressive reporting during the second wave of Covid. Unlike some other media outlets, we highlighted the true picture and reported how people died for lack of oxygen and hospital beds.”
Gaur added: “We will not be scared at these intimidating tactics. We are accountable to our readers and will continue to stand with the truth.”