News Release

Indian Government Targets Independent Media Outlet


N. RAM,,  @nramind

Ram is a director of The Hindu Publishing Group and former editor-in-chief of The Hindu. He is based in India, but is currently traveling in Europe.

He said today: “The military-style ‘search and seize’ raid conducted on October 31, 2022 by the Crime Branch of the Delhi police on the offices of The Wire and the homes of its three founding editors, Siddharth Varadarajan, M.K. Venu, and Sidharth Bhatia, deputy editor Jahnavi Sen, and product-and-business head Mithun Kidambi marks a new low for media freedom in India. The police seized various devices under cover of investigating a criminal case based on a complaint made by Amit Malviya, a BJP leader who heads the ruling party’s national Information Technology department. The First Information Report registered by the police on the basis of this over-the-top complaint against the journalists covers charges of cheating and dishonesty, forgery, forgery for the purpose of harming reputation, using as genuine a forged document or electronic record, defamation, all read with ‘common intention’, under the Indian penal code.

“In the seven years of its existence as an independent and not-for-profit digital news media venture, The Wire has operated with limited resources but done sterling work that few other media organisations do in India. It has handled sensitive information, offered progressive comment fearlessly, and specialised in complex investigations, its Pegasus-India exposé being an outstanding example. No wonder that a far-right regime and its supporters regard The Wire as an adversary.

“Unfortunately, while working on and publishing a series of stories relating to Meta and India, The Wire’s editorial systems failed damagingly. Fed false information and fabricated digital proof by a techie consultant it had engaged on a monthly basis, it reported that Meta’s ‘XCheck’ programme had extended extraordinary privileges to Mr. Malviya, including the right to report any post and have it taken down, no questions asked. When independent experts questioned this, The Wire conducted an internal enquiry that detected the fraud, retracted the stories, and apologised to readers. The Wire’s editorial also promised to put in place robust editorial processes for checking and cross-checking documents and all source-based information, and in future have all technical evidence verified by independent experts before publication.

“When a media organisation publishes a story or a series of stories based on information that turns out to be egregiously false, it is unquestionably a serious matter. But the remedy must be found within the media organisation and within the profession. The Wire’s editors are experienced and ethical journalists and their work is supported by an independent ombudsperson, or readers’ or public editor. And fortunately, in this fraught situation, a large number of professional media bodies, organisations of working journalists, and professional colleagues have rallied in solidarity with The Wire. Further, editorials in major Indian newspapers have come out against the police action and the criminalisation of journalism when it stumbles or takes mis-steps.

“I believe The Wire and the progressive, upstanding, and fearless journalism it exemplifies will emerge stronger thanks to the lessons learned from this serious setback.”

The Editors Guild of India issued a statement that it is “extremely disturbed by the manner in which Delhi Police Crime Branch carried out search and seizures at the homes of founding editors and senior editors of the Wire, as well as their office and the newsroom in Delhi.”
See The Wire’s “Statement on Seizure of Electronic Devices by Delhi Police Crime Branch” and follow-up statements and reporting here.