The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
welcomes the grant of bail to senior journalist K.K. Shahina, in the southern
Indian state of Karnataka after a hearing in a district court on 22 February.
Shahina, who currently works for Open magazine in the state of Kerala, south of Karnataka, faces
charges of criminal intimidation of witnesses following a story she wrote for the
weekly magazine Tehelka. The story
which appeared in December 2010 cast doubt on the charges of terrorism brought
against a prominent Islamic cleric from Kerala state.
Facing the possibility of arrest since January 2011,
Shahina was granted anticipatory bail by the Karnataka High Court in July 2011.
Following summons issued after charges were formally laid against her in
January this year, Shahina appeared before a court in Somwarpet in Kodagu
district of Karnataka, to renew her bail.
IFJ sources indicate that the courtroom where the bail
hearing was scheduled was besieged by activists of the right-wing political
group, the Bajrang Dal, on 22 February, just as Shahina made her appearance.
Shahina and friends, who accompanied her to the
hearing, were reportedly threatened by the Bajrang Dal activists who also
insisted that a cameraperson show them the visuals he had recorded, to ensure
that they could not be identified in public.
The IFJ joins partners in India in urging the
authorities in Karnataka state to ensure that conditions for a fair trial are maintained.
“We see this prosecution as an effort to silence fair
and independent reporting through legal injunction and harassment”, said the
“If the victimisation of a journalist is further
compounded by an atmosphere of fear and intimidation created in the environs of
the courtroom hearing her case, then we fear the likely chilling effect this
could have on free and fair reporting”.
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