Monday 14 January 2013
It might be thought that a journalist responsible for exposing a vicious assault on women would be lionised. In fact, he has been in jail for more than two months.
In July last year, television reporter Naveen Soorinje revealed that a group of Hindu extremists were responsible for an attack on young women at a house party in Mangalore.
His report on Kasturi TV, which included film of the assaults as the women ran into the streets, led to the eventual arrest of 43 people. On 7 November, Soorinje became the 44th person to be detained, provoking outrage among the journalistic community.
Accused of abetting the crime, he faces a range of charges from “rioting with deadly weapons,” criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and using criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty.
Soorinje, who strenuously denies all charges, claimed his arrest was politically motivated because he had exposed the local administration’s failure to deal properly with cases of so-called “moral policing” and attacks on minority communities by right-wing Hindu groups.
The state of Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and there is a suspicion that there was tacit political support for police to detain the messenger for his unwanted message about extremist behaviour by Hindus.
“Police have no business to arrest him,” said M Saldhana, a retired high court judge and human rights activist in the state capital, Bangalore. “He was just discharging his professional duties. The arrest sends bad signals on how the local police are mixed up with right-wing organisations.”
Television footage – taken by Soorinje and a cameraman with Sahaya TV, Sharan, who was arrested late last week – showed men chasing girls and boys and beating them up. Some of the attackers were seen groping a traumatised girl.
The accused defended the attack by arguing that it was a rave party (and, by implication illegal). But police described it as a birthday party attended by students. No drugs were found.
Though some members of the Karnataka state government initially gave broad assurances that the charges against 28-year-old Soorinje would be dropped, his continued imprisonment led to a three-day hunger strike last weekend by fellow journalists.
Dozens of senior editors, reporters and photographers gathered at Freedom Park in the state capital, Bangalore, to show their support.
One of the demonstrators, HR Ranganath, editor of Public TV, told Coastal Digest: “Through this arrest, the state government is sending a message to the journalist fraternity that they will be punished for anti-establishment reportage.”
And Arvind Narrain, a member of a lawyers’ collective based in Karnataka, told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists: “There is consensus across activists and journalists that Naveen is innocent. He’s one in a million for fearlessly exposing the Hindu right.”
But a Mangalore court denied Soorinje’s request in late November for bail. And a further request was denied on 26 December by the Karnataka high court.
- Journalist Victimized by the Karnataka police #FOE #mediagag (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Karnataka Home Minister assures withdrawal of cases against journalist Naveen Soorinje (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Statement of Support for Release Naveen Soorinje, – NWMI, Mumbai (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Journalists announce hunger strike seeking Naveen Soorinje’s release (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Civil Society begins fast demanding release of TV journalist (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Bangalore: High Court Rejects Bail Plea of Journalist Naveen Soorinje (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- The wrongful arrest of Naveen Soorinje #VAW reporting (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Shooting the messenger #FOE (kractivist.wordpress.com)