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Archives for : Karavali Ale

#India – Press freedom on shaky ground #FOE #FOS

Since January, media has been under attack a number of times, with police failing to protect its rights. GEETA SESHU says all this forms a grim backdrop to World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Posted/Updated Thursday, May 02 18:45:32, 2013, Thehoot.org

One death, one instance of arson, seven attacks on journalists and an equal number of instances of censorship in the first four months of this year in India – that’s the tally from the free speech tracker of the Hoot’s Free Speech Hub. Add this to the loss of jobs in media funded by ponzi schemes like the Saradha group (1,400) or in other newspaper groups struggling to stay afloat.

Barely four days before World Press Freedom Day on May 3, a Kannada newspaper Karavali Ale was the target of an attack by the BJP MLA from Surathkal in South Karnataka, Krishna Palemar. Copies of the newspapers were torched at the local bus station. Subsequently, the distribution of copies was disrupted.

According to a complaint filed before the Election Commission by Rohini S, Managing Director of Chitra Publications, which brings out Karavali Ale, the ‘criminal actions’ of Palemar sought to frighten the management and staff against publishing reports adverse to him. Earlier, the newspaper had carried a detailed report about the ‘hollow’ claims of the political leader about development in the area.

The complaint added that Palemar had committed a violation of the poll codes (Karnataka goes to the polls on May 5) and has demanded action for his criminal destruction of property. Despite requests to local police for protection , this was not forthcoming, the newspaper management said

While the current tussle between the newspaper and local politicians owing allegiance to the Hindu right is clearly poll-related, it is by no means the only one. On February 6, a staffer of the newspaper, Harish Puthran, was attacked by elements supported by Hindu Vedike leader Satyajit Surathkal for his news reports that investigated the links between the Hindu fundamentalist group and the local drug mafia.

Earlier, in 2010, Palemar succeeded in obtaining a High Court injunction against the newspaper from publishing adverse reports against him, after an earlier attempt to secure an injunction from the Bangalore City and Civil Sessions court failed.

Press Freedom in India: January-April 2013

A quick glance at the list of attacks and censorship of the media in just these four months reveals the range of issues journalists are routinely confronted with. The killings, the attacks, threats and the censorship can originate from any quarter – Maoists in Chhattisgarh, Hindu fundamentalist groups in Mangalore, police and security forces in Odisha and Kashmir or even the gutka don who organised an acid attack against a journalist in Parbhani.

The censorship can range from police clamping down on coverage of the case of the Delhi gang-rape victim, elected representatives of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly who beat up a police inspector in the house but issued contempt notices against television channels for reporting the attack, defamation blocks on online media coverage of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) or the gag on the media of an entire state following the hanging of Afzal Guru.

In February, Nemichand Jain, a Hindi journalist working in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, was killed and a local committee of the Maoists left a pamphlet at the site taking responsibility for the killing. The incident, which sent shock waves amongst journalists in the area, again underlined the precarious nature of media work in a zone of conflict.

Jain worked both as a journalist as well as a distributor for several newspapers and the Maoists claimed he was a police informer. Journalists decided to boycott all information about Maoists following the death. The boycott was lifted after Maoists reportedly apologised, in yet another pamphlet, for the killing.

Needless to say, amidst this exchange of pamphlets, police are still ‘investigating’ the case.

Police are still also investigating the acid attack on Dinesh Chaudhary, reporter for Solapur Tarun Bharat, and his wife and teenaged daughter in Parbhani, Maharashtra in March this year. Chaudhary wrote about gutka don Syed Ali, who allegedly got two accomplices to throw acid on him. The duo managed to escape. The state home minister promised to take serious note of the incident and directed police to do their job. Till date, says the editor of the newspaper, Narayan Karanjkar, Ali is still ‘absconding’, though he has been spotted in the area on several occasions!

Odisha manages to be in the news for attacks on the media. In 2012, the Free Speech Hub conducted a special report on this state but when impunity rules, the journalist has no protection at work. Subhakant Padhihary discovered this when he was beaten mercilessly while covering an agitation in Bhubaneshwar on April 1. “When I was being caned mercilessly by the cops, Bhubaneswar DCP Nitinjit Singh was present, but he walked away,” Padhihary said.

Only yesterday, another journalist Amitabha Patra, and an editor of the magazine Nissan Lenin Ray, were arrested while covering a protest by villagers against the Lower Suktel Dam in Dunguripali of Balangiri district, Odisha.

The ‘Hindu taliban’ is what local journalists call attackers of Harish Putran, reporter for Karavali Ale, a newspaper from Mangalore, who was beaten up for a series of articles he did claiming that the Hindu Jagran Vedike had close links with a drug mafia.

The organisation became infamous for the pub-attacks and the raid on a homestay, which had led to the arrest of Kasturi television reporter Naveen Soorinje last November. After spending around four months in jail, Soorinje was granted bail by the Karnataka High Court and released in March 2013.

Sure, the media in turn has a lot to answer for. As the Hoot’s reports show, the media routinely forgets the North-east, invades the privacy of partying students in Hyderabad or when journalists fail to ask the right questions of their media owners. And these are just a few examples.

But as Camus said: A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.

 

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Journalist Victimized by the Karnataka police #FOE #mediagag

 

In jail for the past 50 days for covering the Mangalore homestay raid,

Naveen Soorinje’s bail application comes up tomorrow.   

 

Posted Tuesday, Dec 25, 2012, http://www.thehoot.org/

On November 7, 2012, Kannada TV channel Kasturi’s reporter in Mangalore, Naveen Soorinje, 28, was returning after covering a public function addressed by former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, when he was arrested by the Mangalore police. From that date to now, he has been lodged in the Mangalore sub-jail. He has been denied bail by both Mangalore Judicial Magistrate First Class [JMFC] and the Mangalore district and sessions court.
Soorinje’s crime? He covered and telecast the attack on a birthday party at a homestay in the Mangalore’s suburb of Padil by Hindutva activists on July 28, 2012. But the charges against him are: unlawful assembly [IPC section143], rioting [147], rioting with deadly weapons [148], criminal trespass [447], house trespass [448], wrongful restraint [341], voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means [323/324], criminal intimidation [506], intentional insult with intent to provoke breach [504], assault or criminal force against women with intent [354] and dacoity [395].
The Mangalore police have arrested 31 persons with Hindutva links in connection with the homestay incident. Soorinje, the only reporter present on the spot, and whose report identifying this incident as  ‘’Talibanization of Mangalore’’ was the basis for the entire case against the Hindutva activists, has been charged and arrested under the same sections of the IPC [Indian Penal Code] as the accused.
When his bail application comes up on December 26, 2012, Soorinje will have spent 50 days in jail. A small band of committed journalists and activists from Mangalore are fighting for his release. They have given petitions to the district administration, tried to get chief minister JagadishShettar to intervene, but to no avail.  Home minister R Ashoka,  reportedly at the behest of Soorinje’s boss Anita Kumaraswamy, the wife of former chief minister H D Kumarswamy, is said to have tried to protect the journalist. But, according to sources in Ashoka’s office, his efforts were muzzled  by a PIL filed by some Mangalore residents in the Karnataka High Court seeking a restraint on his intervention.
Who is Naveen Soorinje?
Mangalore reporters point out that Soorinje has been responsible for several exposes in his career, first as a reporter for the tabloid Karavali Ale and later, for the Kasturi channel. In the course of his seven year career, he has written and done audio visual stories that have targeted Hindutva organizations, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Popular Front of India which is also a Muslim organization, the pontiff of Pejawar Mutt Vishveshateertha, who is the guru of former Madhya Pradesh CM Uma Bharti, and the powerful head of the Dharmasthala temple, the DharmadhikariVeerendraHeggade, among others.
‘’Naveen has taken on all-powerful organisations in the region, indiscriminately. He wrote exposes on corrupt policemen, exposes on journalists taking gifts in return for favours, so everyone was out to fix him. They have deliberately put non-bailable charges on him and ensured that he is out of circulation as a warning to everyone else who wants to expose the communalism bubbling over in Mangalore,’’ a fellow journalist, who declined to be named, told The Hoot.
Soorinje, by his own submission, had got a tip off from a source in Padil on July 28h that some people were preparing for an attack on Muslim boys who were consorting with Hindu girls. Soorinje says, according to a report compiled by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties Karnataka [PUCL-K]: ‘’The immediate thought that crossed my mind was, should I inform the police right away or not? I had not information about the organization that was going to attack. I also did not know who was going to be attacked or for what reason or the place at which the attack would take place. As I had been given the information by my news source, I thought I would inform the police only after confirming it.’’
Soorinje was the only reporter who reached the homestay, Morning Mist, before the attack at 6.50 pm. He had with him Rajesh Srinivas, the cameraman of another Kannada TV channel, TV-9, as his own cameraman was not available. Soorinje says when he reached there,  he saw a girl sitting in the verandah and two boys were at another corner, playing on their mobiles. ‘’There was nothing there which could provide a reason for assailants to attack, so even at that point, I did not think it was necessary to call the police, as the information that I had been given could be wrong.’’
But some 30 people gathered and barged in, as the girl on the verandah ran in and tried to shut the door. Soorinje says he immediately called the local inspector Ravish Nayak, but he did not receive the call. Soorinje then called the TV-9 reporter Rajesh Rao and asked him to contact Ravish Nayak, with the same results.
Along with the assaulters, another cameraman, Sharan of the local Mangalore channel, Sahaya TV, had come in. Sharan and Srinivas barged into the home stay along with the assailants, while Soorinje began reporting the story and alerting others. He says he was shocked at the kind of violence and molestation of the girls that the assailants indulged in and felt ‘’these things could not be made into visuals for the news. Very little of what happened there could be shot on camera. However, the way the assailants were manhandling the girls, if news cameras were not present, I shudder to think how much further they would have gone.’’
The police have built a case against Soorinje based on a complaint filed by an event manager Vijay Kumar, who was hosting the birthday party at the home stay. But Vijay Kumar has told PUCL-K: ‘’If the media had not been there, the goons would certainly have raped the girls. After the incident we gave a statement to the police. My signature was taken on a blank sheet of paper and then an FIR was prepared, some of whose points I don’t agree with.’’ He, along with other victims, held a press conference in Mangalore on July 29 and said: ‘’The media has helped us, there should be no case against them.’’
The police, further, did selective chargesheeting. Soorije was charged and put into jail, but the TV-9 cameraman whose footage was used by all channels including the national ones, is not among the accused. Yet another accused, Sharan of Sahaya TV, is going about his work in Mangalore, but he has not been arrested. A CD of the entire incident submitted by Soorinje to Ravish Nayak has gone ”missing” while a pen drive from TV-9 has been shown as the evidence. This serves the purpose of making TV-9 the witness and Soorinje the accused. The police have slapped the dacoity charge on him along with section 34 of the IPC, which reads:”When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.”
Naveen’s bail application comes up on December 26, 2012.

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