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Indian police raided the homes of journalists linked to an independent news outlet critical of the government – and accused of spreading Chinese propaganda – a move that has sparked concern over eroding press freedoms in the world’s largest democracy, CNN reported.

The raids targeted reporters, editors, and contributors of NewsClick, a left-leaning news organization known for being fiercely critical of the Hindu-nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Authorities questioned more than 40 people, and seized digital devices and documents for examination as part of an investigation under an anti-terror law.

Two individuals, including NewsClick’s founder and editor, were arrested under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – an anti-terror legislation that critics describe as “draconian” and makes it nearly impossible to receive bail.

NewsClick said it is being accused of spreading Chinese propaganda on its website. The outlet denied the accusations, saying it “does not publish any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority.”

The police action prompted outrage among media organizations and civil society groups in India. Critics warned that the raids underscore continuous efforts by the government to stifle independent journalism and curb press freedoms.

According to the annual World Press Freedom Index, India’s ranking has fallen from 140th in 2014 – the year Modi assumed office – to 161st out of 180 nations on this year’s list. This places India lower in the rankings than countries such as Laos, the Philippines and Pakistan.

The raids on NewsClick come eight months after Indian tax authorities raided the BBC’s offices following the airing of a documentary critical of Modi’s role in deadly riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002.

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