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Tax raids target Indian paper that criticised government over Covid | India


Tax raids have been carried out on the places of work of considered one of India’s hottest newspapers, after months of crucial protection of the government’s dealing with of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Thursday morning, greater than 100 tax inspectors descended on the headquarters of Dainik Bhaskar media group within the state of Madhya Pradesh, and raided 30 regional places of work within the states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The houses of a number of of the newspaper’s senior executives and promoters have been additionally raided and the cell phones of some workers seized.

Dainik Bhaskar, which is revealed in Hindi, is considered one of India’s most generally learn day by day newspapers with a circulation of greater than 4m copies. It produces greater than 60 regional editions.

As the devastating second wave of Covid hit India in March, Dainik Bhaskar devoted in depth protection to the failures of the state and central government in coping with the disaster, together with deaths from oxygen shortages, lack of hospital beds and the our bodies of 1000’s of victims discovered floating on the Ganges.

Reporters additionally spent weeks at crematoriums and hospital morgues counting the Covid useless to show the undercounting of deaths.

Dainik Bhaskar accused the government of going after it on trumped-up tax evasion prices in response to its crucial reporting. “Scared of its coverage of floating dead bodies in the River Ganges during the pandemic, the government launched raids on the Bhaskar group,” it mentioned in a press release.

The Press Club of India mentioned it “deplores such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to deter the independent media”.

Opposition politicians condemned the raids as an try to intimidate and muzzle the crucial press in India. Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of Rajasthan, mentioned the raids have been a “brazen attempt to suppress the voice of the media”.

Jairam Ramesh, a former minister with the opposition Congress get together, tweeted: “Through its reporting Dainik Bhaskar has exposed the Modi regime’s monumental mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is now paying the price.”

Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal and a vocal critic of the government, mentioned: “Dainik Bhaskar bravely reported the way Narendra Modi mishandled the entire Covid crisis and led the country to its most horrifying days amidst the pandemic.”

Banerjee described the raids as a “vindictive act that aims to suppress voices that bring out the truth. It’s a grave violation that undermines the very principles of democracy.”

The info and broadcasting minister, Anurag Thakur, denied the government had any position in authorising the Dainik Bhaskar raids. “Agencies do their own work, we don’t interfere in their functioning,” he mentioned.

It shouldn’t be the primary time organisations and media teams crucial of the prime minister’s rightwing Hindu nationalist administration have discovered themselves subjected to tax evasion prices. In 2017, the tv information channel NDTV was raided over allegations of economic impropriety. Amnesty International has been the target of a years-long investigation over alleged unlawful international funding, and needed to halt its work in India final 12 months when the government froze its financial institution accounts.

In July, the media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders named Modi among the many heads of state and government it deemed “predators of press freedom”. Under Modi, India has fallen dramatically within the world press freedom index because of the persecution of journalists and information organisations who’re crucial of the regime.

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