Bangalore – Journalists, rights activists and members of civil society organizations Saturday began a three-day fast under the aegis of ‘The Forum Against Illegal Arrest of Journalists’ demanding immediate release of Naveen Soorinje, the TV journalist who reported the infamous home-stay attack at Mangalore in July this year.
The arrest of Naveen Soorinje is a blatant violation of press freedom. Instead of making him a witness, the Police have labled him as a perpetrator. The Government should drop all the charges against Soorinje and release him immediately, HR Ranganath, senior journalist and chief of Public TV told media-persons.
“The charges, which are generally framed against criminals, have been framed against a journalist, who conscientiously reported an outrage against partying youths.” he said.
Soorinje has been of booked under different sections of Indian Penal Code like 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, 447 (criminal trespass) and 395 (dacoity) and presently languishes in Mangalore prison.
Another senior journalist Laxman Hoogar said that the arrest of Soorinje is an effort by the police to curtail the freedom of press and to warn the journalists who go against the wish and whims of the Police.
Is covering violence or crime, a crime? he asked.
According to B. T. Venkatesh, a noted Advocate and rights’ defender, “If Soorinje had not covered the incident and reported it, the nation could never come to know about this heinous culture prevailing in our society”.
The listing of Soorinje as an accused and not as a witness is absolutely unjust to both the witness and the victims. And it will help criminals to getaway, he added.
The Karnataka Police had arrested Soorinje, a TV journalist working with Kasturi Newz24, on 7 November and accused him of committing various crimes along with the attackers who belonged to right-wing extremist groups.
The bail application moved by Soorinje has been rejected by both the lower court and the High Court.
Outraged over his arrest, journalists’ organizations, senior journalists as well as civil society groups have been protesting across the state and demanding that the government should drop its proceedings against him.
Despite several appeals by delegations of journalists to the Governor and the Chief Minister, no action has been taken by the Government in this regard. The issue was also taken up with the Home Minister on the floor of the State legislative assembly during the recently concluded session at Belgaum.
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