Media as collaborators

The dubious role of the fourth estate

The Kannada daily, Vijaya Karnataka, through its editor, Vishweshwar Bhat, has repeatedly published extremely inflammatory editorials and articles targeting the Christian community. The newspaper was rewarded by the Karnataka government with promotional advertisements worth over Rs 100 crore between 2008 and 2010. During that time the government’s financial position was so precarious that government employees, particularly in the rural areas, had not received their salaries for months together and many of them were driven to suicide. Yet the government appears to have had enough money to publish full-page colour advertisements of the chief minister and his colleagues every day. 

In December 2008 Vijaya Karnataka published a particularly offensive article that resulted in countrywide protests by right-thinking citizens belonging to all communities. Referring to this article in an open letter addressed to the Karnataka chief minister, BS Yeddyurappa, in March 2010, Justice Saldanha says:

“I have seen the article which is one of the most vicious, offensive and venomous pieces of writing directed against the Christian community and is sufficient to invoke the maximum jail sentence against the writer, (SL) Bhyrappa, the editor, Vishweshwar Bhat, the printer and the publishers. This was published at a point of time when the police all over the state and particularly in the Karavali area were indiscriminately registering false cases against members of the minority community and against any secular publication that disapproved of religious and human rights atrocities. This misuse of power has invoked strictures from the high court and orders for exemplary damages. 

“In sharp contrast, when the head of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed FIR No. 0343 at the Mangalore South police station on December 27, 2008, the police refused to take cognisance on the grounds that they required to get clearance from your most trusted colleague, Dr VS Acharya, the home minister of the state… 

“Similarly, in respect of this very article and this very newspaper, another FIR No. 0002 was filed at the Bangalore North police station by an aggrieved member of the community on January 2, 2009 and again, under the home minister’s directions, no action has been taken. At the same time, this very home minister directed the police to register nine false FIRs against the editor of Karavali Ale in different police stations spread over Mangalore and Udupi on absolutely false, imaginary and unsustainable allegations that he is inciting communal disharmony merely because that publication disapproved of the government-inspired violence against members of the Christian community.”

Incidentally, Communalism Combat’s cover story, ‘Bloody Harvest’, in September 2006, on the growing communalisation in Karnataka, included an article entitled ‘Hindutva’s vital organs’ by Gauri Lankesh who detailed the criminal and inflammatory role played by the same publication, Vijaya Karnataka, around that time.

Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2011 Year 17    No.155, Cover Story



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