In the wake of I-T raids on the residence of Network-18 founder Raghav Bahl and offices of news portal 'The Quint', Editors Guild of India (EG) has expressed concern, saying it is 'perturbed' over Bahl's statement that officials tried to see 'sensitive journalistic material'.
"Editors Guild of India expresses concern over the search and survey conducted by the Income Tax Department at the offices of The Quint and at the residence of its founder Raghav Bahl," a statement issued by the EG said.
"The Guild is also perturbed over Bahl's statement that he had to strongly advise the tax officials that they should not try and pick up or see any other mail or document which is likely to contain very serious and sensitive journalistic material.," EG said in a statement.
"If they do that, then we shall seek extremely strong recourse," Bahl had said.
"The Guild believes that motivated income-tax searches and surveys will seriously undermine media freedom and the government should desist from such attempts," it added.
The Income Tax Department had on Thursday searched media baron Raghav Bahl's home and office in connection with a case of alleged tax evasion.
"A team of I-T sleuths raided The Quint founder's premises in Noida early morning and are looking for documents and other evidence related to a case of "bogus long-term capital gains (LTCG) received by various beneficiaries," the department said.
Apart from Bahl, three other "beneficiaries" and professionals, J Lalwani, Anoop Jain and Abhimanyu, were searched as part of the same action, they said.
Bahl, who was in Mumbai at the time, shared his "great concern" with the Editors Guild and said dozens of IT officials descended on his residence and The Quint's office for a “survey".
"We are a fully tax compliant entity, and will provide all access to all appropriate financial documents. However, I have just spoken to the officer on my premises, one Mr Yadav, and requested him, strongly, to not try and pick up or see any other mail/document which is likely to contain very serious/sensitive journalistic material." They should also not misuse their smartphones to take unauthorised copies of the material, he said.
If they do that, he will seek "extremely strong recourse", Bahl said in the statement posted on his official Twitter handle.
"I do hope the EG will back us on this, and thereby set a precedent for any such exercise that may happen on any other journalistic entity in the future," he had said.
In another statement to the media, he said he was on his way to Delhi and his wife and mother were confined to the residence and not allowed to speak to anybody.
LTCG is broadly defined as the tax paid on profit generated by an asset such as real estate, shares or share-oriented products held for a particular time-frame.