“Made to sit on the bus floor like criminals”: Detained Kerala journalists

Now released, the journalists recount how they were treated inhumanely treated by the police
Image Courtesy: mangaloretoday.com

Journalists and crew from at three Kerala-based news channel News 18, 24 News, Media One and Asianet who had been detained in Mangaluru, Karnataka where two people died due to police firing, were released on Friday evening after they were handed over to the police around the Kerala-Karnataka border.

The journalists from these channels had reached Mangaluru to report the protest and unrest in the city with regards to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). They were reporting from outside Wenlock Hospital when a senior police officer stopped them to see their IDs. When the reporter showed them a company-issued ID, but the cop insisted that it wasn’t a government provided accreditation and ordered him to get out.

They had reached the hospital at around 8 AM where the post-mortem of the two deceased in the firing was being conducted. They were asked to move out of the premises and were asked to get inside a police vehicle after cops insisted that they wanted to verify their accreditation.

Speaking to India Today a journalist said, “While we were reporting outside the hospital the Mangaluru Police commissioner came there and asked us to move out. We followed his direction and came outside the premises. Then he again came to us and asked for our IDs. After looking at the ID he disrupted our live reporting and tried to push the mic away. Later, we went and sat inside the car, some minutes later a few policemen reached out to our vehicle, pulled us out of the car and forced us into a police bus. Though there were seats available we were asked to sit on the floor. We were treated like criminals.”

Another journalist who was detained, told the channel, “We were detained for no particular reason. They couldn’t even give us a proper justification. Without any reason we were confined for over seven hours. All we had was a bottle of water during this whole day. Clearly, it was discrimination. As we were sitting inside the vehicle we could see other journalists from national channels and Kannada channels reporting outside.”

Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai had blamed the violence in the city on the groups from Kerala staying in the city for the past week. He had said that some ‘traitors’ from the neighbouring state had come to Mangaluru to cause violence.

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had expressed regret over the incident regarding the arbitrary detention of the journalists and had asked Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa to ensure their release at the earliest.

Some news outlets had reported the journalists to be ‘fake’ and carrying ‘lethal weapons’. This news was to fray communal sentiments and it was confirmed by Boom Live, a fact checking website that spoke to local reporters, that the police had suddenly started demanding government accreditation from journalists who weren’t reporting in the Kannada or Tulu language.

About this, Pinarayi Vijayan had said, “I strongly condemn the attempt to portray journalists as troublemakers and their news gathering equipment as weapons. Onslaught on media freedom is a fascist mindset. There must be strong public sentiment against this.”

According to official figures, 20 people have lost their lives in the anti-CAA / National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests in the country. After the public, especially the students who are leading the movement, the government has now started targeting the media just like it did in Kashmir.

Just like the Kerala journalists who had been detained in Mangaluru, the UP Police had also arrested a journalist and an activist pressuring them to admit that they were part of the violence that broke out there even when they clearly were not.

The crackdown on journalists is a classic tactic of the BJP government. Just like in Kashmir, they are once more seen resorting to it in a bid to stop the portrayal of the state-sponsored violence on innocent agitators.


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