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
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
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