Thejas, a daily newspaper in Malayalam, published from Calicut and four other centers in Kerala, has been served with a notice by the Additional District Magistrates of Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, to show cause why its declaration for publication shall not be cancelled. The order, served under the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867, alleged that the newspaper has been publishing news items, editorials and articles that “seriously compromised the national interests and national unity.” The newspaper was asked to file its response on September 30 and October 3, 2013, respectively at Calicut and Trivandrum to the concerned authorities, failing which the Government shall proceed with further action for cancellation of the newspaper’s registration with the Registrar of Newspapers India (RNI).
Thejas is a newspaper that was launched at Calicut on 26 January 2006, under the management of Intermedia Publishing Ltd,a public limited company of which a large number of shareholders support the Popular Front of India. Its first editor was Prof. P Koya, writer and social activist, who serves at present as its printer and publisher. Its present editor is N P Chekkutty, who served as executive editor from its launch in 2006, who has a career of over 30 years in journalism, working in various newspapers and other media organizations like Deshabhimani, Indian Express, Madhyamam and Kairali Television. The newspaper which has its successful editions in West Asian countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, employ more than 300 staff members–both journalists and non-journalists, besides a retinue of hundreds of local reporters and correspondents.
The newspaper, in its Vision Statement that lays downs its policy perspectives, declares that it was committed to serve the cause of the marginalised sections of Indian society, and work for their emancipation and empowerment through peaceful and democratic means. It has pledged to uphold and serve the rights of the minorities, dalits and other backward sections of Indian society, in a mainstream media atmosphere where the voice of these oppressed social segments get little attention and representation.
In order to promote these declared objectives, the newspaper has built up a mass base and a string of writers and correspondents and journalists, drawn mainly from these marginalized social segments. The newspaper has a substantial number of dalits and Muslim women on its staff, recruited and trained in the past seven years of its existence.
The newspaper has generally taken a level-headed approach in its news reporting and editorial comments and it has never faced even a single allegation that it violated any of the basic principles of ethical journalism or caused any damage to national unity or national interests, as alleged in the present show-cause notice.
The present show-cause notice from the Government was preceded by a series of actions on the part of the Government to harass thenewspaper, denying advertisement support from the Public Relations Department (PRD) of the Kerala Government and the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP) of the Central Government. The PRD ads, which the newspaper has been receiving from 2007, were stopped without any notice from May 16, 2010, the final year of the LDF Government in Kerala. The newspaper filed a case against the PRD and Government of Kerala against the stoppage of ads, and when the present Government under Shri.Oommen Chandy came to power, the ads were restored on the condition that the case be withdrawn. Though the Government restored the ads following withdrawal of the case, the ad ban was again imposed very soon. In the past few months, the DAVP ads are also stopped to the newspaper.
It is a clear case of a Government harassment of a newspaper, that raises a number of questions crucial to democratic practice in India, the issue of media freedom and empowerment and equal treatment of the marginalized sections in Indian society. The Government seems to be applying different yardsticks to different newspapers and even willing to use the iron hand against a newspaper which it considers not to its liking. The Government has overstepped all parameters of democratic governance in this unilateral application of a draconian legislation to stop the publication of newspaper, cancelling its declaration. This is a matter of grave public concern and we vehemently protest against the Government move to destroy a newspaper. We understand that in the past one year, the Editor of the newspaper had represented the Home Ministers of Kerala and Union of India, urging upon them to hold an open and impartial inquiry into any allegations that the Government may have received against the newspaper, so that its fair name could be cleared. We call the Government to withdraw its moves to harass the newspaper without any delay and resort to legal and democratic means to sort out any issues it may have with the newspaper instead of trying to destroy it through such patently illegal and draconian actions like denial of public ads and cancellation of its declaration.
Released by the committee for the Protection of Media Freedom–Kerala, chaired by K M Roy, senior journalist,
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