Kozhikode/Thiruvananthapuram, July 30 (IANS) A Kerala Police officer who forcibly took away four media persons attached to Asianet TV channel from a magistrate’s court to a police station in Kozhikode has been suspended for misconduct.
Sub Inspector P.M. Vimod was suspended by state police chief Loknath Behra.
“This should not have happened. I am sad,” said Behra to reporters in the state capital, announcing the suspension of the police official.
An official probe into the incident has been ordered.
Trouble started in the morning when Vimod allegedly manhandled the media persons who had entered the magistrate court premises to cover the day’s important cases. He then forcibly took them away to the Town Police Station, adding to the already tense relations between the lawyers community and media persons in Kerala.
The police official said the Kozhikode district judge had asked the police to remove the media personnel from the court premises, but later the Kerala High Court got a clarification from the district judge that the latter had not asked for any ban of the media.
The High Court registrar general Ashok Menon on Saturday evening issued a press statement stating that there has been no ban imposed on journalists from attending and reporting court proceedings.
Following a huge media outcry, the four Asianet TV officials were allowed to leave the station and a senior official attached to the Town Police apologised for the turn of events.
However, when the Asianet media personnel came to the police station to take back their broadcast vehicle which was taken by the police in the morning, Vimod dragged the media professionals into the police station and threatened them with action.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is in Delhi told reporters who were protesting in front of Kerala House there, that acton would be taken in the matter and that he views the incident very seriously.
CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan assured the media that what happened at the police station was not acceptable and tough action will be taken against the official.
State BJP president Kummanem Rajashekeran said the incident shows that those running the Home Department have failed.
“Curbing the media is anti-democratic and this high handedness of the police has to be controlled,” said Rajashekeran.
Hearing of the second provocative action by Vimod, journalists arrived in large numbers and demanded that he be arrested.
Behra said if they get a complaint about the assault then “appropriate action would be taken”.
Recounting the events, Asianet correspondent Binuraj told reporters in the morning: “We had just arrived in the compound of the magistrate court. Soon after the local sub-inspector came menacingly towards us and said they are taking us and the driver of our vehicle to the police station. They behaved with us as if we were terrorists. In the station too they behaved very badly with us.”
In the state capital, journalists took out a silent protest march by covering their mouths with black cloth.
Relations between the media and the lawyers community in Kerala have gone from bad to worse since the past 10 days after trouble first began in the Kerala High Court premises in Kochi. Tension between both factions also erupted in the state capital, and a few days ago the lawyer community prevented the media at Kollam from covering the judgement of a controversial murder case.
John Brittas, who heads Kairali TV channel – the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-backed TV channel and is also media advisor to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, deplored the events at Kozhikode.
“This should not have happened; the media should get the space and the freedom to work,” said Brittas.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he cannot recall any incident like this having taken place earlier.
“The issue was raging between the media and the lawyers; we cannot fathom how the police have become a party to this. The Chief Minister has to answer and find a solution at the earliest,” said Chandy.