Media associations condemn police searches at The Wire

New Delhi: Media associations on Tuesday condemned searches carried out by the Delhi Police at the offices of news portal The Wire and the houses of its editors on the basis of a complaint filed by BJP leader Amit Malviya.

In a joint statement, seven media bodies including Press Association, Press Club of India and Digipub News India Foundation said the manner in which the Delhi Police has acted on the complaint of a BJP spokesperson “smacks of sheer vendetta”.

“It is surprising that even after the news portal issued a detailed retraction for its editorial lapses, putting out the same in the public domain, the Delhi Police, based on the complaint of the BJP leader which includes a bevy of charges including criminal clauses under the IPC, registered an FIR and chose to proceed (with) investigating the matter with uncharacteristic promptness,” the statement said.

Delhi Union of Journalists, Working News Cameraman Association, Indian Journalists Union and Kerala Union of Working Journalists are also signatories to the statement.

Earlier, in a separate statement, Digipub News India Foundation claimed that the searches “mainly serve the purpose of criminalising and creating a chilling effect against the profession of journalism in India”.

“A journalist or a media organisation that publishes a false report ought to be held accountable by its peers and civil society,” the statement said.

“But for the police to carry out an immediate and arbitrary search of the media house’s office and its editors’ homes, based entirely on a private complaint of defamation filed by a spokesperson of the ruling party, smacks of malafide intentions,” it added.

It noted that Malviya’s complaint was regarding a series of stories published by The Wire about social media company Meta, claiming that he had special censorship privileges through an Instagram programme called “X-Check”.

The Wire had retracted the said articles last month, claiming that it was deceived by a member of its investigative team.

The Delhi Police carried out searches at the houses of the portal’s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and deputy editor M K Venu on Monday.

A senior police officer said searches were conducted at The Wire’s office as well and all electronic devices relevant to the probe were seized.

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