Memorandum submitted by journalists to Hon’ble Chief Minister Sri. V. S. Achuthanandan
We are writing to you to draw your kind attention to a matter of utmost seriousness which has been agitating journalists in Kerala and outside for the last one week.
Smt. K. K. Shahina, a reporter of ‘Tehelka’ magazine who is based in Thiruvananthapuram, is facing harassment and intimidation from the Karnataka Police for her having interviewed the witnesses in the case relating to Sri. Abdul Nasar Madhani’s alleged involvement in the Bangalore bomb blasts case.
The Karnataka Police had depended on evidences given by persons living in Kodagu region of Karnataka to link Sri. Madhani with the Bangalore blasts case. These were persons who, according to the police, had claimed that they had seen Sri. Madhani when he reached the area at the time when the blasts were in the planning stage. When she interviewed two of the witnesses, Sri. K. K. Yoganand and Sri. Rafeek Bappatty, they told Smt. Shahina that they had not seen Sri. Madhani in the area at the time.
Even as she was travelling in the area and meeting with these persons, the local police arrived on the scene under the leadership of a Circle Inspector. He told Smt. Shahina that he suspected her to be an extremist. When she informed him that she was the reporter of ‘Tehelka’, he insisted on speaking to her editor. She gave him her managing editor, Smt. Shoma Chowdhury’s number and was thus allowed to leave the place.
On her return to Kerala, Smt. Shahina filed a report based on the interview with the two witnesses and the same was carried prominently by ‘Tehelka’. Once the matter came to the attention of the entire nation, the Karnataka Police registered two cases against Smt. Shahina and the persons who had accompanied her to the Kodagu region for the interviews. The two cases have been registered at the Somawarpet Police Station (No. 199/10) and Siddhapura Police Station (No. 241/10) under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code for intimidation of the witnesses.
This, we feel, is a clear case of infringement of journalistic freedom by the Karnataka Police. Howsoever serious a case might be, the media has always had the freedom in this country to meet with witnesses and even the prime accused to hear their versions and place these before the people at large. It is this freedom, among many others, that has given our democracy the vibrancy that it has today. By registering a case for criminal intimidation against a journalist, the Karnataka Police has cut at the very root of democratic and media freedoms in our country.
Besides, there is also the equally serious question of ‘profiling’ evident in the action of the Karnataka Police. We strongly suspect that the Karnataka Police has chosen to swing into action against Smt. Shahina because she is a Muslim and she had tried to an investigation in a case relating to another Muslim. This is height of intolerance, which should be nipped in the bud if the democratic rights of our people are to be safeguarded.
We consider it the duty of every citizen of this country to question this action of the Karnataka Police, both for its naked infringement into journalistic and democratic freedoms and its violation of the principles of equality that we have carefully nurtured in our society and polity. The growing trend of intolerance among governments and their arms towards criticism should be viewed with seriousness by all who cherish democratic rights.
We would, therefore, request you to kindly draw the attention of the Hon’ble Karnataka Chief Minister to the issues involved in the cases that have been slapped on Smt. Shahina so that early corrective action can be taken and the democratic freedoms in this country remain unfettered. We wish to point out that this is not an issue concerning one journalist or media house, but the entire society and we are sure that you would get the Hon’ble Karnataka Chief Minister to act decisively in the matter so that the wrong committed by the Karnataka Police is set right without any further delay.
B. R. P. Bhaskar (Veteran Journalist and activist)
S. Jayachandran Nair (Editor, Samakaalika Malayalam Vaarika)
N. R. S. Babu (Veteran Journalist and Director, Institute of Journalism, Thiruvananthapuram)
Sashi Kumar (Chairman, Media Development Foundation and Asian College Journalism, Chennai)
Paul Zacharia (Writer and columnist)
S. R. Sakthidharan (Chairman, Kerala Press Academy)
M. P. Achuthan MP (Editor, Janayugom)
N. Madhavan Kutty (Consultant Editor, Deshabhimani)
Sebastian Paul (Former MP and Media Analyst)
Neelan (Chief Executive Editor, Amritha TV)
N. P. Rajendran (Deputy Editor, Matrubhumi Daily)
K. P. Mohanan (Chief Operating Officer, Jaihind TV)
N. P. Chekkutty (Executive Editor, Thejas)
Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Deputy Editor, Frontline, New Delhi)
V. M. Ibrahim (Executive Editor, Madhyamam Daily)
M. G. Radhakrishnan (Associate Editor, India Today)
N. Padmanabhan (former General Secretary, Kerala Union of Working Journalists)
C. Gouridasan Nair (former President, Kerala Union of Working Journalists)
K. C. Rajagopal (President, Kerala Union of Working Journalists)
Manoharan Morayi (General Secretary, Kerala Union of Working Journalists)