Media And The Cops: A (Bad) Week In Review

This has been a particularly bad week for media at the hands of law enforcement. Here are four recent instances that have come in for much criticism among media professionals. These are unrelated incidents and we don’t think there is a trend here. However, four instances in a week is remarkable and we thought it worthwhile to bring to your attention.

Police entered the editorial offices of Tamil daily Dinamalar on Wednesday and arrested news editor B. Lenin. Police action followed protests from the city’s film industry after the magazine published an actress’s statement to the police. According to this report, Dinamalar claimed that the actress was recently arrested on charges of prostitution and published her statement, which implicated a number of people in the film industry.

The Editors Guild of India condemned the police action. “The Guild is shocked that the policemen in plainclothes, who did not have a warrant from a judicial authority, dragged out Mr. B Lenin, News Editor of Dinamalar. He was hastily produced before a magistrate and was not allowed access to legal assistance,” the Guild said in a statement.

Lenin was granted bail today.

The Indian Express reported on Wednesday that police in the state of Chhattisgarh served notice on some reporters covering the Naxal violence-infested Bastar region. The police served a notice on two journalists under the Criminal Procedure Code for publishing comments from a leader of Communist Party of India (Maoist), an outlawed political outfit.

From the IE story: “Bastar journalists are caught between the devil and the deep sea. Maoists have been circulating letters, accusing the media of being stooges of the government and alleging that they published only police version on encounters and other incidents. On the other hand, the police by sending notices to journalists are hinting at legal action for carrying the other side of the story,” said Bastar Zila Patrakar Sangh chief S. Karimuddin.

In a bizarre incident whose details have been shrouded in a maze of allegations and counter allegations, an American journalist working at Delhi Press’ Caravan magazine was brutally beaten up by the Delhi Police. The cops have claimed that Joel Elliot was trying to steal a taxi. Elliot told The Times of India that he was beaten up for intervening while the cops were thrashing another man.

The incident, which has been front-page news this week complete with shocking pictures of Elliot’s injuries, has caused tremendous outrage over police brutality. In a statement, Caravan has demanded a high-level investigation into the incident.

Journalists at NewsX channel’s offices in Noida were surprised on Wednesday when some 15 to 20 armed policemen turned up outside their building at noon and started towing away cars without any explanation.

The channel had run a special investigation into an unofficial tax liquor vendors were being forced to pay and said the money was going up to the top levels of the Uttar Pradesh administration.

“Noida local administrators and armed police did come to the NewsX office and tow away cars, even those parked within the yellow line. Their approach was unnecessarily highhanded and rough. … They damaged employees’ cars and refused to take responsibility for the same. The officials also did not explain why so many armed policemen were required to get cars towed. While we are aware that some parties have suggested this police action was a kind of intimidation attempt, we have no reason to believe this. Fortunately, senior UP govt and Noida officials were very helpful in settling the situation,” NewsX’s administration head Veshakha Gulati said in an emailed statement.

Noida Superintendent of Police A.K. Tripathi told contentSutra that the police were present on the request of the local administration, which was carrying out an anti-encroachment drive. “It was not specific to NewsX or anybody else. We only removed the cars that were parked on the road.” When asked about the damage to cars, Tripathi said he had no comment to offer on the matter.