Thiruvananthapuram: Newspersons from Kerala-based television channels were arrested while trying to report the post-mortem proceedings of two people killed in police firing in Mangaluru on Thursday.
The reporting crew members, including cameramen, were arrested for failure to produce accreditation credentials from the Karnataka government. The media personnel only had ID cards issued by their news organisations or authorised agencies of the Kerala government.
The arrested media persons included representatives Asianet, Mathrubhoomi, News18 and a few other television channels.
The Karnataka police also seized the mobile phones and camera equipment belonging to the crew, alleging that they were part of a 50-member team from Kerala who had come to Mangaluru to foment trouble.
The Mangaluru police action has to be considered against the backdrop of a claim by Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai that the trouble in Mangaluru was caused by people who came from Kerala.
The town has been under curfew following Thursday’s violence during protest marches taken out in solidarity with the students of Delhi’s Jamia Millia University, who had allegedly been roughed up by the police. The incident has triggered nation-wide protests and the Mangaluru rallies were part of this.
The arrested newspersons were released following the intervention of Kerala chief secretary, who got in touch with his counterparts in Karnataka. The Mangaluru police action evoked strong protests in Kerala, cutting across party lines.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan strongly condemned the incident and decried the attempt to portray journalists as troublemakers and their news gathering equipment as weapons.
“The onslaught on media freedom is a fascist mind-set. There must be strong public sentiment against this," Pinarayi said.
He also said the state government would make all efforts to ensure the safety of journalists from Kerala travelling to Mangaluru for reporting.
State industries minister EP Jayarajan described the reported statement by the Karnataka Home Minister as ‘highly irresponsible’.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the media was only doing its job. "What the Mangaluru police did is to gag the media and this is not acceptable in a democracy," he said.
The television reporters and cameramen were driven to the border town of Thalappadi, where they were ‘handed over’ to the Kerala police personnel. The seized mobile phones and equipment were also given to the Kerala police.
The newspersons alleged that they were treated like criminals and denied even the basic courtesies of being served drinking water, although they were in custody for not less than seven hours. They were forced to sit on the floor of the bus in which they were transported to the border.