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Modi. Photo: Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Indian tax authorities raided the offices of a leading Hindi-language newspaper on Thursday, in what government critics have denounced as yet another attempt to intimidate critical media outlets.

Driving the news: The raid came days after an international journalism consortium reported that Indian opposition politicians, activists and journalists were among those targeted with spyware from Israeli firm NSO.

  • Dainik Bhaskar, the newspaper, has held the government’s feet to the fire over its handling of the pandemic. The paper’s national editor told the Washington Post that the authorities harassed his journalists and seized their phones.

Meanwhile India has become a main focus of the growing NSO scandal — which relates to military-grade "Pegasus" software that was designed to track terrorists and criminals, but appears to have been used for other purposes by governments around the world.

What they're saying: Sushant Singh, one of the journalists targeted for surveillance, writes in Foreign Policy that this is “no less than India’s Watergate moment.”

  • Opposition members disrupted parliamentary proceedings on Tuesday to demand an investigation into what the Congress party called “an attack on the democratic foundations of our country.”
  • Amit Shah, the powerful Home Secretary, called the accusations “conspiracies” intended to “derail India’s development trajectory.” But the government has declined to say whether it used the Pegasus spyware.

The big picture: Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has fallen to 142nd on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

  • Watchdog groups accuse the ruling BJP of unleashing trolls on journalists and pressuring outlets to echo approved narratives. At least 55 journalists were arrested last year for their coverage of the pandemic, The Wire reports.

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2021 - Health

India crosses 1 billion COVID vaccinations milestone

A health worker inoculates a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a man wearing a face mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Beawar, India, in September. Photo: Sumit Saraswat/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Thursday that the country's health workers have now administered more than 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines doses.

Of note: While this is a significant milestone for the country of 1.4 billion, which has been devastated by the coronavirus, only about 30% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, per AP. Roughly 75% have received at least one dose.

20 mins ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.