The police in New Delhi raided the homes and offices on Tuesday of journalists who worked as staff or contributors for a left-leaning online news portal known for criticisms of the Indian government.
Some writers were detained while their property was searched or seized during the early-morning raids. As one unfolded at his house, a video journalist, Abhisar Sharma, made one last plaintive post to X, formerly known as Twitter, at 8:05 a.m. local time: “Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone …”
The police, who fall under the direct command of India’s government, have not issued an official statement about their action.
Mr. Sharma, like the other targeted journalists, had produced reports for a website called NewsClick, a scrappy outlet best known for its sharp invective against Narendra Modi, the country’s right-wing prime minister.
NewsClick was raided by India’s financial enforcement officials in 2021, after which a court blocked the authorities from taking any “coercive measures” against the site. Two months ago The New York Times published an investigation that connected NewsClick to an international network that funds pro-China propaganda, along with other material.
Other Indian news outlets, citing sources within the Delhi police, reported that the new raids were prompted by a case filed against NewsClick on Aug. 17 under an antiterrorism law known as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, or U.A.P.A., which the government has used to stifle dissent.
Both the Press Club of India and an Indian digital news foundation called Digipub said they were “deeply concerned” about the raids. The Editors Guild of India said it worried that the raids’ intention was to “create a general atmosphere of intimidation under the shadow of draconian laws.”
India is now ranked 161st out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index maintained by Reporters Without Borders, having fallen more than 20 places since Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014.
Tax authorities raided the BBC’s New Delhi offices in February, after one of its channels in Britain aired a documentary examining Mr. Modi’s role in anti-Muslim riots in 2002. Independent Indian think tanks and news outlets like Newslaundry, a media-monitoring site, have been raided and had their access to funding blocked, as have international aid groups like Amnesty International and Oxfam India.
Anurag Thakur, India’s minister of information and broadcasting, said of the latest raids: “I don’t need to justify it. If anybody has committed a wrong, then investigation agencies will work on that.”
NewsClick’s contributors include a wide array of Mr. Modi’s critics, including a stand-up comedian and a historian as well as journalists. One of the reporters taken in for questioning is doing the most serious investigative work on the Adani Group, an embattled conglomerate with close ties to Mr. Modi, according to Kavita Krishnan, a feminist activist and former leader of a leftist political party.
Ms. Krishnan said that The Times’s coverage of NewsClick and the funding network had left her “concerned that the Modi government would weaponize the story as an excuse, as a pretext for fresh attacks on journalists who are doing very important work.”
Criminal charges, when they are announced, could be very serious, she said.
“U.A.P.A. is an antiterror law, under which you don’t have to produce any evidence at all,” Ms. Krishnan said. “The allegation itself is enough for you to be put away for several years without a trial.”