Legal challenge threatens the release of journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is

concerned to learn of a legal challenge to the decision to drop charges against Naveen

Soorinje, now under arrest for over three months on charges of

involvement in a July 2012 vigilante attack on a group of partying teenagers in

the city of Mangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Soorinje, who is a reporter for the Kasturi TV channel

based in Mangalore, was alerted to the possibility of an attack by local witnesses

and arrived at the site soon after activists of a group that styles itself as

the Hindu Jagaran Vedike began assembling. According to the testimony he has

filed both before the police investigators and a civil rights organisation

based in Karnataka, he was unsure initially about the intentions of the group

that had gathered. As soon as the attack began, he made efforts to inform local

police authorities, while a cameraman who accompanied him recorded the violent

events – footage that was later used by police to identify the perpetrators.

Soorinje's arrest led to widespread protests and

his subsequent pleas for bail were rejected.  In a review of Soorinje’s case on January 31,

the cabinet in Karnataka state decided to drop all charges. But with the

cabinet decision awaiting the signature of the chief minister of Karnataka, a

lawyer based in the state capital of Bengaluru made a plea to the high court

that the decision to drop the charges was illegal.

The high court has since, issued notice to the state

government and suggested that if charges against Soorinje are dropped, the

court may order their reinstatement.

“We are seriously concerned at this move to further detain

Soorinje” said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“Journalists cannot be held responsible to stop civil

unrest or illegal activities. To pursue the case against him any further would

be a serious deterrent to journalists in conscientiously carrying out their

professional responsibility to report cases of civil unrest or illegal

activities.”  

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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