Journalists defend their right to report

Mumbai: Eleven journalists, on Saturday, defended their right to report the trial proceedings of the 2008 Malegaon blast case. They told the special court that the move of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to seek a ban on reporting of the court proceedings was unfounded and baseless.

Notably, 11 journalists from various media houses have moved the special court seeking to challenge the application filed by the NIA to conduct the trial of the blast case 'in camera'. Currently, the BJP member of Parliament and motormouth Pragya Thakur, Lt.Col. SP Purohit and five other Hindu extremists are on trial. NIA had moved this plea last month, thereby restraining the media from reporting the day-to-day proceedings in the case.

In its application, the NIA cited 'national security and communal harmony' as reasons for restraining the media from covering the case. It further claimed that the identity of the witnesses needed to be protected or else their lives were at risk. Dismissing NIA's contentions, advocate Rizwan Merchant, appearing for the journalists, said, "The contentions of national security and communal harmony are irrelevant because the media houses have always been cautious while reporting such sensitive cases."

"While reporting such incidents or sensitive cases the media has always been cautious especially because it is aware that any wrong reportage can lead to severe consequences," Merchant argued. In his submissions, Merchant further highlighted the fact that there have been instances earlier, when the media has been given access to report highly sensitive issues.

"There have been instances when media has been allowed to report and cover sensitive cases just like the Ajmal Kasab matter or others. There, media was not disallowed or barred from reporting," Merchant argued. During the course of the hearing, the special judge, Vinod Padalkar, too agreed with the submissions of Merchant that till date the media has not revealed the identity of any of the witnesses in this case.

Meanwhile, the advocate appearing for the victim in the case, argued that a ban on the media would lead to breach of the fundamental right to speech and expression. The arguments are likely to continue on Monday.

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