NEW YORK—The June 5 government raid of properties owned by New Delhi Television (NDTV) network founders Prannoy and Radhika Roy is a transparent ploy to harass independent voices in India, PEN America said in a statement today.

NDTV, one of India’s oldest private TV news networks, has been a frequent target of Narendra Modi’s administration due to its critical reporting on the government and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party. On Monday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) searched several of the Roys’ residences and offices in connection with a private complaint about a default on a 2008 loan from ICICI bank, without any preliminary inquiry and despite the bank having confirmed payment in full, according to a statement from NDTV.

“The raids targeting NDTV’s founders show that the government is willing to employ a variety of methods to silence critical voices,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “This latest attempt to intimidate the independent media is emblematic of the Indian government’s expectations of a meek and agreeable press corps, and their determination to punish those who do not comply.”

Professional organizations such as the Editors Guild of India have also expressed concern about the raids.

The raid of the NDTV founders’ homes and offices comes shortly after a tense on-air showdown on the night of June 1 between NDTV anchor Nidhi Razdan and BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, when Razdan demanded that Patra apologize or leave the panel show after he repeatedly accused NDTV of having an agenda against his party. As noted in PEN International’s 2015 report Imposing Silence: The Use of India’s Laws to Suppress Free Speech, the environment for free expression has deteriorated under the present government, with authorities regularly using legal cases and other regulatory mechanisms to curb dissenting views. 

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT
Sarah Edkins, PEN America: [email protected]n.org, +1 646.779.4830