Pegasus Row: Govt Should Stop Harassing Journalists, Says Media Watchdog As Police Visit ‘The Wire’ Office

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The Wire office in New Delhi. — Twitter photo

The Police visit to The Wire office for ‘security reasons ahead of August 15’ termed as ‘strange’ as questions were asked about Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Vinod Dua, actor Swara Baskar and activist Asif Khan.

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — Siddharth Varadarajan, co-founder of The Wire has alleged that a Delhi Police official arrived at the office of the news outlet on Friday and asked questions about its staffer Arfa Khanum Sherwani, journalist Vinod Dua, actor Swara Baskar and activist Asif Khan.

The senior editor tweeted about the police action showing a photo of a police official sitting before a computer monitor on the news desk. He termed the visit of the police “strange” which lasted for 18-20 minutes. The policeman also asked to see the rent agreement for the premises, said Varadarajan.

The Delhi Police acknowledged the visit but said it was as part of “security and anti-terrorism measures” ahead of the Independence day on August 15.

Measures such as tenant verification, checking of guest houses etc are being taken throughout Delhi. Local beat officer had gone to verify an office which didn’t bear any signboard at the entrance. Please see the photo, Deputy Commissioner of Police New Delhi claimed in reply to Varadarajan, attaching a photograph of part of the building with a board reading “office for rent”.

The police action which many termed “raid”  came at a time when The Wire is publishing a series of reports on the allegations of use of Pegasus spyware by the Modi government to snoop on opposition leaders, journalists, critics, human rights activists, scientists and even ministers and government officials.

The Wire editor countered the DCP’s claim saying the sign was for the other half of the building. Vardarajan added: “But please speak to Ct Mahesh, as I did, and find out why he was asking about Vinod Dua, Swara, Arfa, some Asif, & mumbling something about “koi kanpur case”. All very strange.”

Media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists, expressed concern over the reports of questioning of The Wire Staff. In a tweet posted by the Asia desk of the organisation, CPJ underlined that the action comes following the outlet’s work on the Pegasus Project, adding authorities should immediately cease harassing journalists covering issues of public interest.

Sherwani, who hosts a widely watched show on the Wire’s Youtube Channel, later said she spoke with the police official over phone following a call from her colleague on “beat officer Mahesh’s insistence”.

She also shared the text of her conversation in a tweet.

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