IFJ Deeply Concerned over Criminal Charges against Indian Investigative Reporter

 

Media Release: India                                                                                       

January 15, 2013                 

 

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is

extremely concerned to learn of the criminal charges filed against

investigative reporter K.K. Shahina by police in the southern Indian state of

Karnataka.

 

Shahina, who currently works with the weekly magazine Open, faces charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code,

including criminal conspiracy and intimidation of witnesses with intent to

commit a crime. The chargesheet filed in the sessions court in the district of

Kodagu in Karnataka state, also indicts her under sections of the Unlawful

Activities (Prevention) Act, which is most commonly invoked to deal with

terrorist offences.

 

These charges stem from a story published under Shahina’s byline in the weekly magazine Tehelka in December 2010, which appeared to cast doubt on the prosecution of a

prominent Islamic cleric and political figure on terrorism charges.

 

Shahina who then worked as correspondent for Tehelka in the state of Kerala, based

her story on interviews with key witnesses in the case against Abdul Nasar

Mahdani, an Islamic cleric who heads the Peoples’ Democratic Party, active

mainly in the state of Kerala. Mahdani has since been arrested and charged by

Karnataka police for conspiracy to detonate a series of low-intensity bomb

blasts in the state capital city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in July

2008.

 

Shahina’s story cited several of the witnesses named

by the Karnataka police as saying that their testimony has been misinterpreted

or distorted in making out the charges against Mahdani.

 

In March 2011, Shahina was honoured with the Chameli

Devi Jain award for outstanding woman media person. The awards citation

mentioned her investigative work in defence of civil liberties, among other

contributions.

 

Facing the possibility of arrest since January 2011,

Shahina approached the district court in Kodagu for anticipatory bail, but was

turned down. It was only in July 2011 that the Karnataka High Court granted her

provisional immunity from arrest. With charges now formally registered in the

sessions court, she will be required to appeal for renewal of her bail and also

travel from her base of Kochi city in Kerala, to Madikeri in Kodagu district

for every hearing.

 

The IFJ calls on the authorities in Karnataka state to

reconsider their intent to prosecute Shahina, whose work has been an example of

investigative journalism in the cause of civil liberties.

 

“We see this prosecution as an instance of seeking to

silence fair and independent reporting through legal injunction. We fear that

the process of the law, with the demands it makes on the time and energy of the

defendant, is often punishment in itself and will severely impair this

journalist’s professional effectiveness.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

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