Days after a group of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists were booked for barging into the office of Malayalam news channel Asianet News at its Kochi office over “fake" news about the sexual assault of schoolgirls in Kerala, the police held searches at the premises.
Kerala police held searches on Sunday following a complaint filed by CPI(M)-backed legislator P V Anwar, the channel stated in a report on its website. There is no search warrant, and the investigation is being conducted using the special powers of the police, District Crime Branch Assistant Commissioner V Suresh was quoted as saying.
A group of 30 activists of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of the ruling CPI(M), had allegedly barged into the office of Malayalam news channel Asianet News at its Kochi office on Friday and intimidated its staff over a “fake" news report on sexual assault of school girls.
‘Fake News on Sex Abuse of Schoolchildren’
According to CPI(M) sources on Saturday, the protests against the news channel were regarding creating fake news using a minor girl on a news report on the alleged sexual assault of over ten girl students at a school in northern Kerala.
The news channel ran the story as part of its programme on November 10, 2022, on the drug menace in the state.
The complaint filed by MLA PV Anwar claims the interview of a 14-year-old girl in the channel’s ‘Narcotics is a dirty business’ series was fake.
Sources in the SFI Ernakulam District Committee sought to justify the action by claiming that the student outfit organised the march to the Kochi office of the media house in protest against fake news run by it.
SFI Activists Barge into Asianet Office
On Friday, the TV channel lodged a complaint against around 30 activists of the SFI, alleging that the accused entered the office around 8 pm. The group raised slogans against the news channel, pushing aside the security staff and intimidating its employees, the police said.
Police said the activists had been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting) and 149 (forming an illegal assembly for the prosecution of a common object of murder).
Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar slammed chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan-led government and shared a video of the police action on Twitter.
So @pinarayivijayan facing serious corruptn charges n questns from media thinks he can wriggle out n distract ppl by intimidatng media using his SFI hoodlums n thn his Police ♂️ #Joker https://t.co/FFjLoJvas2— Rajeev Chandrasekhar (@Rajeev_GoI) March 5, 2023
Journalists’ Bodies Condemn ‘Attack on Media’
The Press Club of India criticised the action and urged the Kerala government to launch an investigation into the incident. “We express concern and lodge our protest over SFI activists reportedly entering the @AsianetNewsML office in Ernakulam and intimidating the staff. These strong-arm tactics have no place in a democracy. The Kerala government should probe this incident swiftly," the Press Club of India said in a tweet on Friday.
A joint statement by the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Delhi Union of Journalists and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists on Saturday said barging into media offices is “illegal" and should be considered as “an attack on press freedom". “We expect the Kerala government to take strict action against those who attacked Asianet," they said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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