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Karnataka journalist held in defamation case, handcuffed, tied to a chain by police

Photo: Daijiworld Media Network

The chairman-director of the Chitra group, publisher of daily Karavali Ale, who has been held in a defamation case, was brought to the court premises in handcuffs, tied to a chain held by a policeman in Karnataka's Udupi on Monday.

BV Seetaram, who is also the editor-in-chief of the group, was declined bail as he feared arrest by the Mangalore police on other charges, the Hindu reported. “If I am moved to Mangalore jail, I may be harmed by Bajrang Dal elements within the jail,” he said. The court remanded him to judicial custody till January 17.

The Hindu report said: [Link]

He said he was being “targeted” in an old case because his newspaper reports, with “principled stand” against the activities of Sangh Parivar organisations, were “embarrassing to the government.”

He said that while pro-government newspapers with defamation cases pending against them were let off by the police and the district administration, his daily was “singularly targeted” for its “criticism of the Bajrang Dal and the police during the recent attacks on churches in Mangalore, and for its stand in support of farmers in the anti-Special Economic Zone agitation.”

Karavali Ale, with a readership of four lakh, has been at the receiving end of a series of legal cases and attacks on its printing facilities and distribution network.

Mr. Seetaram and his wife were arrested in March 2007 on charges of promoting religious hatred through their newspaper columns. Days before the arrest, his office was broken into and computers and files were burnt.

Since November 2008, the publishers of the newspaper have filed several police complaints accusing Sangh Parivar organisations of sabotaging their distribution network, attacking hawkers and burning bundles of the newspaper.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed alarm over the arrest. Reports received by IFJ suggest that the police had no arrest warrant when they took Seetaram into custody. "We are opposed in principle to criminal defamation laws and the arrest of an editor is a matter of serious concern," said Jacqueline Park, IFJ Director for the Asia Pacific.

Seetaram had in December 2008 lodged a complaint with the Press Council of India (PCI), alleging that there were systematic efforts afoot by political forces in Karnataka, to prevent the distribution of his newspaper on a regular basis. PCI has since issued a notice to the local authorities, asking them to investigate these complaints.

"We understand that some incidents of communal conflict witnessed in Mangalore and its adjoining areas over the last few months have sharply polarised public opinion", said IFJ Asia Pacific. "Though Seetaram has been accused of fomenting animosity on grounds of religion, we are informed that he has done little else than name names of those responsible for the recent bouts of violence in the area".

"We urge the local authorities to ensure that the situation is not aggravated by invoking rarely used powers of suppressing the right of free expression through the press".

Date posted: January 6, 2009Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 2055