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DMK, MDMK Leaders Decry Tamil Journalist’s Arrest, Say the Move is Threat to Press Freedom

Nakkeeran, a Tamil bi-weekly run by Nakkeeran Gopal, had featured pictures of Nirmala Devi, an accused in the Madurai Kamaraj University sex scandal along with Purohit.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:October 9, 2018, 9:04 PM IST
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A Chennai court on Tuesday granted relief to veteran journalist and publisher Nakkeeran Gopal, who was arrested for allegedly defaming Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit in one of his articles.

Nakkeeran, a Tamil bi-weekly run by Gopal, featured pictures of Nirmala Devi, an accused in the Madurai Kamaraj University sex scandal along with Purohit. The magazine story said Nirmala, an assistant professor of Devanga Arts College in Aruppukottai in Virudhunagar district, had met Purohit four times at Raj Bhavan.

Gopal was attested at 8.15am, following a complaint by the governor's office about the cover story. He has reportedly been booked under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code (assaulting President, Governor, etc., with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power).

Nirmala Devi was arrested in April for allegedly trying to lure girl students into giving sexual favours to officials.

Damodaran Prakash, chief reporter of Nakkeeran, told News18: “I had written this story. I am on the run as my name is mentioned in the FIR. My story was about assistant professor having met governor Purohit four times. They arrested my editor. Nirmala Devi was arrested and the investigation into the case is still on.”

Expressing his relief at the court order, Gopal told news agency ANI: "It's a victory. It's a slap on Raj Bhavan. It's also for spineless Tamil Nadu government which acted upon governor's wish. The court has judged well."

Nakkeeran’s arrest had turned into a political debate, with the DMK condemning the move and alleging that the AIADMK and the BJP are threatening the press freedom.

In a statement, MK Stalin said: “I strongly condemn the AIADMK government over the arrest of senior Journalist Nakeeran Gopal. It remains a mystery as to why the state government is acting in such a manner in Nirmala Devi issue. Gopal's arrest is shocking. He has been invited to meet the governor. His confirms that BJP government is ruling the state through AIADMK. Arrest of Gopal tramples the freedom of press. The police are yet to arrest H Raja."

MDMK chief Vaiko staged a protest outside the police station where Gopal was being held. Vaiko wanted to enter the station and meet Gopal as an advocate but police refused permission. He then staged a dharna and was detained by the police.



On the other hand, TTV Dinakaran welcomed the arrest and said it was wrong to publish a news article against an individual without proper evidence.

In April, a 19-minute audio conversation of Nirmala talking to students went viral. In the audio clip, Nirmala is alleged to have said, "Certain incidents happen. Governor is not a grandfather. You know how close I was to the governor. I can now be more liberal, but people outside won't know. If I tell you who it is, you will give me answer faster. They will maintain secrecy and privacy to that level," Nirmala can be heard boasting in the audio clip.

Governor Purohit had addressed a press conference after the audio became public, denying any association with Nirmala. “I have not seen her face till date. What are you talking about? It is nonsense, baseless (on how he is being questioned by the home ministry on sexual harassment cases against him),” Purohit had said.
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