The Income Tax department on Friday conducted separate "survey operations" at the premises of online news portals Newsclick and Newslaundry in the national capital, officials told news agency PTI. The operations were conducted to verify certain tax payment details and remittances made by the organisations, they said.
Meanwhile, the two online portals on Saturday have put out statements regarding the 12-hour "survey".
NewsClick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha in a statement said this is not the first time the online portal has been targeted by government agencies. "The offices of NewsClick, as well as the residences of Prabir Purkayastha and other persons associated with us, were also raided earlier this year by the Enforcement Directorate," the company said.
"The raid appears to relate to the same false and unfounded allegations being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Economic Offences Wing, Delhi Police. We have these allegations challenged in the Courts," the statement added.
The company further said that the investigations "are attempts to stifle independent journalism".
Meanwhile, Newslaundry said it conducted their business "honestly and with integrity" and will cooperate with the Income Tax department authorities.
"We have nothing to hide and have done everything by the book and are not in any breach or violation of any law. We conduct our business honestly and with integrity," Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri said in a message posted on his Twitter handle.
Sekhri said the tax team told him he "can not" speak to his lawyer and the law requires him to comply "without seeking legal advice" adding that the officials were courteous and professional.
He said "no signed hash value of the data copied" was provided to him and that he considered this as violation of his fundamental right to privacy.
Sekhri said the tax team comprising about 6-7 people arrived at their office around 12.15 pm on Friday and left around 12.40 am on Saturday.
"They searched and looked through all computer devices at the premises. My personal mobile phone, laptop and a couple of office machines were taken control of and all the data on them downloaded by the IT team," he said.
Sekhri said this was the second visit by the tax authorities to the Newslaundry office, the first being in June, and they had given "all documents related to our funding and accounts" to the officials then.
"We will cooperate in whatever way we are required to by the law. We will also continue to practice public interest journalism which is why we exist," he said.
(With PTI inputs)
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)