After being called out for being a Chinese mouthpiece and pushing Beijing’s agenda, a Delhi-based media portal named NewsClick, which is financed by American tech mogul Neville Roy Singham has found support for its nefarious actions. In the latest development, the Press Club of India has come out to defend the dubious organisation and released a statement in its favour.
The letter termed the recent exposé as a “targeted campaign” and claimed to have “deep concern” about the same as well as criticised the suspicion raised after the shocking reveal. It stated, “We the undersigned organisations, express deep concern over the ongoing targeted campaign against the news web portal Newsclick and its founders. The recent accusations levelled by senior political figures, including some members of parliament, suggesting that the portal serves as a mouthpiece for a neighbouring country are both unwarranted and condemnable.”
The Press Club of India issues a statement condemning the targeting of Newsclick and journalists associated with it.
“The accusations leveled by senior political figures, including some MPs,
suggesting that the portal serves as a mouthpiece for a neighboring country are both… pic.twitter.com/asZJInlRxv
— Prashant Kumar (@scribe_prashant) August 9, 2023
The press release defended the media outlet and read, “While NewsClick, like other media outlets, critically examines government actions, this does not render it unpatriotic or a tool of any foreign nation. The portal features contributions from individuals of integrity and substance. Articles that offer critical yet appreciative perspectives on the policies of other countries should not be mistaken for advocacy on their behalf, nor should they be labelled as anti-national or seditious.”
It argued that the same transparency that is required for sources of finance of Newsclick should be applied to the advocates and promoters of multiple other publications supportive of the present government. The sponsors and funding sources of all such portals must be made public in the interest of complete openness and honesty. “Without such disclosure, the recent actions targeting Newsclick could rightly be characterized as a witch-hunt.”
The note further added, “Media organisations function within the confines of Indian law, and it is equally important for government agencies to adhere to these standards. A thriving democracy necessitates that media outlets, regardless of their affiliations, have the freedom to operate without government or corporate pressures. The vitality of democracy is inextricably linked to an independent media.”
It was signed by Umakant Lakhera who is the president of the club and Shobhna Jain, president of the Indian Women’s Press Corps. It also contained the names of C.K. Nayak, president of the press association along with Sujata Madhok, president of the Delhi Units of Journalists.
NewsClick and its China link
The Enforcement Directorate discovered more than two years ago after conducting a probe that NewsClick had received approximately Rs 38 crores in funds from abroad. The agency was able to follow the money trail to American millionaire Neville Roy Singham, who reportedly has extensive ties to the Communist Party of China’s publicity department.
The Bharatiya Janata Party raised the issue at the time and charged that anti-Indian groups were conspiring with foreign powers to denigrate India and undermine the administration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Now, an investigation by the New York Times has recently uncovered an ecosystem of activist organisations, non-profits, shell corporations, and their intimate ties to China and Chinese propaganda. Notably, Neville Roy Singham is at the heart of this network. The article read, “What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Mr Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide.”
It was highlighted that he has been successful in spreading talking points from the communist administration in nations including India, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States under the guise of progressive advocacy. The report pointed out, “In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points.”
Through this global ecosystem of activists and non-governmental organisations, China, which has been attempting to assert its economic and global might for quite some time, has created a system that covertly promotes the Chinese people and reiterates the official line. It showed how the country has been able to deflect criticism of its violations of human rights from around the world and how its position on global issues is woven into international discourses owing to this network.
NewsClick has come in for harsh criticism from both the BJP and the general public for its unethical practices since the report was released on 5 August. “Money from China came into NewsClick. An environment was created against the government using Chinese funds,” proclaimed Godda MP Nishikant Dubey in a scathing attack on the media house in the Lok Sabha on 7 August.