Karnataka Guv called to brief President on Press Freedom

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Karnataka Guv called to brief President on Press Freedom & Secure Journalists Release
CM urged to release 2 jailed journalists, constitute judicial inquiry & suspend police
The CSF will intensify its agitation if journalists are not freed

The CSF will intensify its agitation if journalists are not freedThe CSF, the activist national community NGO has called upon, Dr. HR Bharadwaj, the Governor of Karnataka to send to the President of India, a Special Report on the Freedom of the Press in the state, which is critically affected with reports of attacks on the media.  This is especially in the wake of the police foisting false cases on two journalists, currently in jail, months after their arrest. It may be recollected that they were arrested for video-recording the July moral policing attack on the Homestay facility, on the outskirts of Mangalore, where Christians were involved.

The CSF urged the chief minister to constitute a judicial inquiry and suspend the police officials found guilty, or it will be loud and clear that the government is shielding the police biased in favour of the Hindutva forces and against minorities. The CSF expresses its solidarity with journalists facing human rights violations and called upon the Karnataka home minister, R. Ashoka to immediately fulfill his promise of releasing not just Naveen Soorinje, reporter of Kasturi News Channel but also Sharan of Sahaya TV. The cases need to be withdrawn and journalists released, failing which The CSF would intensify their protest, as public outcry is sought to be stiffled and has gone unheard.  The CSF said the defense of press was vital for the functioning of India as a democracy, as only the media fearlessly exposed the establishment of the day.

According to Joseph Dias, CSF general secretary, ‘ Its been two months that Naveen Soorinje is in jail for highlighting the role of Hindu fundamentalists and Sharan was arrested later, but is still in jail. The CSF has also received reports that the media, particularly in Mangalore and the coastal districts, like Dakshin Kannada are threatened by not just police, but extra-constitutional communal hoodlums. The arrest of the two journalists is simply to send a signal to the media fraternity that freedom of press will not be allowed and any anti-Hindutva reporting will have undesirable consequences. If such is the treatment meted out to the journalists, what more can be expected for the common man, especially minorities in the state. The Governor of Karnataka has therefore been requested to send a report on the denial of freedom of expression, a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution and which we are duty-bound to protect. ‘

Sections of the Judiciary Saffronised?

Joseph Dias also said ‘ it appeared that sections of the judiciary also would be open to allegations of saffronisation or could have been misled by the administration, as some rulings would be misread. Even the denial of bail and charging the journalists on same charges as the culprits needs to be contested. In case of the journalists, the government is solely to be blamed not only for the false charges, but also for not intervening despite months of harassment. It has also given the BJP and Hindutva fringe groups a free hand to run riot, resulting in attacks on the minorities and civil society. ‘ The CSF general secretary added, ‘ In the background of the attacks on minorities and now, journalists, Karnataka is an ideal case for the President of India to use Article 355 / 356 against the state government. However, given the fact that elections are due soon, he will not do it. Hence, the request to the governor to send a report on the Freedom of the Press in Karnataka or at least brief the union government about it. ‘

According to the CSF both the journalists, Soorinje and Sharan needed to be felicitated for video recording how activists of Hindu Jagarana Vedike assaulted young men and women while they were just celebrating a birthday party. If not for them, the real culprits of the attack would have escaped, rather the BJP government was now not only attempting a cover-up operation and also preventing further anti-government or negative Hindutva coverage.

The CSF pointed out several loopholes in the cases against the two journalist, as follows:

1. The judge was presented with false allegations the police and appears to be deliberately misled.
2. The judge chose to ignore the media reports on the arrest and did not take suo motto cognizance.
3. Naveen Soorinje was wrongly portrayed as an absconder and charged for performing professional duty.
4. The recent arrest of Sharan of Sahaya TV is an after thought and smacks of pure vindictiveness by the police.
5. No drugs were found and the 43 attackers are charged similarly as the journalists, sparing them of more serious violations

The CSF will wait a week, before deciding its future course of action.

– press release


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