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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 47, Dated 24 Nov 2012
    CURRENT AFFAIRS  
    HOME STAY ATTACK

    Slammed for a scoop

    The imprisonment of the journalist who broke the Mangalore home stay attack story smacks of political vendetta, says G Vishnu

    Framed Naveen Soorinje being taken to Mangalore Sub-jail

    Photo: Dayanand Kukkaje

    IN ANOTHER attack on journalists’ freedom in Karnataka, Naveen Soorinje, a reporter with Kasturi TV, a Kannada news channel in Mangalore, is undergoing imprisonment for merely having reported the truth. The 28-year-old scribe was arrested at 10.30 pm on 7 November, while returning from a reporting assignment.


    Absurdly, Soorinje has been named in the chargesheet that identified 43 others from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike (a rightwing group) who had attacked a birthday party at a home stay in Padil on 28 July. The attackers, just like the Shri Ram Sene’s pub attack in Mangalore in January 2009, beat up and molested young girls, stating they were having a rave party.

    The chargesheet clubs Soorinje (among the first reporters to have reached the spot) with those who beat up and molested the girls. Soorinje is the 44th accused and has been booked under Sections 120 (b)( conspiracy), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 447 (criminal trespassing), 325 (causing grievous hurt), 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 504, 506, 509, 358 to be read with IPC 149, 448, 114, 341, 323, 324.

    Ironically, the 43 other accused were identified by the footage shot by Soorinje’s cameraman. Soorinje, tipped off by a local source turned up at the spot with a cameraman — his call detail records (CDR) from that day, available with TEHELKA, show it was not one of the attackers.

    The police had initially claimed that Soorinje did not inform the police about the attack. The dubiousness of the charge notwithstanding — Soorinje had made repeated calls not only to Mangalore Police Commissioner (who was out of town then), but also to Ravish Nayak, inspector of the nearby police station, but never got a call back from the local cop — it barely came as a surprise that the same inspector arrested Soorinje. These calls do not show up in the CDR as they went unanswered.

    But the CDR accessed by TEHELKA of Subhash Padil, main accused in the attack and a participant in the 2009 pub attack, show he had made two calls to a local cop informing about the party.

    Accustomed to harassment of all kinds, as other journalists in Mangalore testify, Soorinje has been an intrepid reporter for nearly a decade. He has been reporting the unlawful activities of the Sangh Parivar goons and the land mafia, besides police harassment of Malekudia tribals in the name of anti-Naxal operations. On many occasions, his friends say, he used to laugh off death threats from Sangh Parivar goons or the land mafia. Incidentally, Subhash Padil, one of the accused, is also one of the goons who had made threats to Soorinje in 2009. Soorinje’s phone records for two days following the attack show he received several threats from criminal elements, both through calls and SMSes. However, all this hardly intimidated Soorinje, who, after getting the warrant two weeks earlier, had applied for an anticipatory bail, which never came along because of court holidays.

    “We were returning after covering a JD(S) rally where HD Kumaraswamy spoke, when Inspector Ravish Nayak of Kankanady police station stopped us near Padil. They claimed it was a police check, but left soon after taking Soorinje into custody,” says Shiva, cameraman with the channel Soorinje works for. “They took him to a magistrate, who sent him to Mangalore Sub-jail within 20 minutes, giving us no time to react,” he added.

    Curiously, the arrest came right after Kumaraswamy’s provocative statement, in his speech, that he would have the prominent RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat arrested. Reporters, who have faced harassment at the hands of the local administration and Sangh Parivar goons, are convinced that Soorinje’s arrest was a simple case of political vendetta as Kasturi channel is owned by Kumaraswamy.

    Vendetta or not, Soorinje’s arrest reinforces the view that Karnataka is being run by an undemocratic regime that has no respect for freedom of expression or other basic rights.

    On 10 November, Soorinje’s bail plea was deferred by a Mangalore court. Several journalists’ unions in major cities of the country, like the Delhi Journalists Union and organisations like the International Federation of Journalists and the Committee for Protection of Journalists have condemned Soorinje’s arrest.

    G Vishnu is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
    vishnu@tehelka.com


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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 47, Dated 24 Nov 2012
 
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