By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NEW DELHI, India – On Wednesday, authorities arrested and charged Naveen Soorinje, a television reporter, with abetting the July attack in Manglaore. This has many criticizing the government of “moral policing” and media organizations casting it as an “assault on press freedom.”
Mr. Soorinje allegedly took television footage of Hindu activists in the southern state of Karnataka partying and chasing girls and boy, presumably college students, to subsequently beating them. Furthermore, certain men were caught fondling one of the already traumatized girls.
The Hindu activists caught on tape defended the attack against the boys and girls as just the conditions of a rave party. Furthermore, the police stated that the group were simply having a birthday party and no drugs were found.
According to BBC, Mr. Soorinje believes that he is being targeted “for exposing the failures of the local administration in dealing with cases of moral policing and attacks on minority communities by Hindu hardline groups.”
“[The] police [had] no business to arrest him. He was just discharging his professional duties. The arrest sends bad signals on how the local police are mixed up with right-wing organisations,” said retired high court judge in Banglaore and human rights activist Mr. Saldhana.
Yesterday, individuals from various organizations protested in front of the deputy commissioner’s office for Mr. Soorinje’s arrest. Additionally, the Visual Media Journalists Association also held a protest in front of the city police commissioner’s office.
Moreover, DYFI Dakshina Kannada district president Muneer Katipalla believes that Mr. Soorinje’s arrest was a revenge tactic against him.
“Naveen is a reporter with social concern and has exposed several wrong doings of bureaucrats and politicians and thus earned their ire. The government should file a special petition in the court and relieve him from all charges,” stated Mr. Katipalla.
The police denied targeting Mr. Soorinje. According to the Mangalore city police commissioner, Manish Kharbikar, authorities arrested 29 people in connection to the attack and Mr. Soorinje’s name was included in the charge sheet.
“We are only complying with court orders,” relayed police commissioner Manish Kharbikar to BBC.
However, activists representing journalists submitted a memorandum to the state home minister, R Ashok, demanding Mr. Soorinje’s release. They further demanded harsh consequences for those officers whom previously arrested Mr. Soorinje.
In Mangalore three years prior, the Sri Ram Sena, a Hindu hardline group, attacked women in a city pub because it was against Indian culture for women to go to pubs.
For further information, please see:
BBC – Outcry over India journalist arrest – 9 November 2012
The Hindu – Journalists stage dharma in Udupi – 9 November 2012
Times of India – Support flows in for arrested TV reporter – 9 November 2012