The story of News Click gets curiouser and curiouser

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

News Click is a website in India headed by Prabir Purukayastha, who also serves as its editor-in-chief. It employs a large number of well-paid staff and reporters and has a large number of associates who are well-known journalists in India, leading the good life.

Where does it get its funds from? It claims to be viewer-funded, but is that the truth? Can any prominent media house run on viewers alone?

A New York Times investigation revealed that News Click received huge funds from US-based billionaire Neville Roy Singham, who has close ties with the Chinese government. The insinuation was that it was the Chinese government which was indirectly funding News Click and all those associated with it.

This resulted in raids by Indian government security agencies on News click offices and the residence of Mr Purukayastha and many journalists/persons associated with the website. Purukayastha was arrested and is still in police custody.

Several journalists raised a big hue and cry that this was an assault on media freedom. But does media freedom include a right to take foreign funding, particularly from a country hostile to India, to do its propaganda? Should such 'journalists' not even be investigated? And should they be called journalists or ‘presstitutes’ (to use a word coined by Gen VK Singh)?

Now the issue has taken a new turn. The head of the Human Resources of News click, Amit Chakravarty, known to be close to Prabir Purukayastha, who had also been arrested with him, has now moved an application in a Delhi Court seeking to turn approver.
One cannot say what was the motivation in the mind of Amit Chakravarty to turn approver? Was it to save his own skin or draw a lighter sentence? One cannot say at present, and we have to wait till further developments. But certain things we can understand.

News Click was very anti-BJP, and so were those journalists associated with it. The BJP government has aligned itself with USA, and the main rival of USA today is China. So it is natural that the Chinese will fund Indian journalists who are hostile to the BJP.

I am not saying that all Indian journalists who are hostile to the BJP get funds from China. But they should certainly be investigated, particularly since they seem to be living affluent lives. Where are they getting the money to lead such lives?

The problem is, they don’t even want to be investigated. Their philosophy is: the media and journalists must be left absolutely free in a democracy. The law may be for others, but for journalists, there must be no law. They are holy cows above the law.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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