Hubballi: Questions over whether the Karnataka government was clamping down on press freedom was uppermost as officers of Bengaluru Crime Branch reached Dharwad on Saturday to arrest well known journalist Ravi Belagere, editor of ‘Hi Bangalore,’ in the aftermath of order of a year’s imprisonment announced by Speaker K B Koliwad earlier this week.
High drama unfolded outside SDM Hospital, where Mr Ravi Belagere has been undergoing treatment as these officers waited to take him into custody soon after his discharge. Doctors, however, did not disclose his health condition till night and whether he would leave the hospital Saturday night.
The ailing but feisty editor has said however that he would rather end his life than surrender to the police, and described the order to arrest him as an attempt to stifle the media. “I have no enemies in political circles. All are my friends once I enter the legislature, but they are all enemies once I come outside. I am not the kind of person who will remain a mute spectator, silently watching my arrest. I am strong enough to fight a legal battle against the system and attempt to curtail my rights to write against the mistakes and failures of the government", he told the media. He was admitted to the hospital when he complained of chest pain at 3 am on Saturday. The CCB police had rushed to a farmhouse in Joida taluk of Uttar Kannada district where the journalist was staying. The police officials reached the hospital in Dharwad when they did find him in the farmhouse.
Members of his family told DC Mr. Ravi Belagere had been suffering from hyperglycemia and high blood pressure for several years. “On Friday, he was in Joida in Uttara Kannada district. By afternoon, he developed health complications and was rushed to Dharwad and he has been hopitalised since Friday night. Doctors have said that he has to be under observation for four days. However, we will move the high court for bail on Tuesday,” they said.
The run in with the law is a direct result of article published in ‘Hai Bangalore’ in 2014 where Mr. Belagere writes a weekly column that is as notable for its prose and command of language as for its trenchant critique of the establishment. In 2014, when he was a legislator, Mr Koliwad had moved a breach of privilege motion against Mr Belagere. It was referred to the Privileges Committee by Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa. Earlier this week, Mr Koliwad gave his consent for the detention of Mr Belagere and Anil Raju, editor of ‘Yelahanka Voice’.
In Bengaluru, members of Bangalore Reporters Guild and Bangalore Press Club submitted a memorandum to CM Siddaramaiah expressing grave concern over the order by Mr Koliwad. “We respect the decision of the Speaker,” the memorandum said, but added it was causing concern among the media fraternity. “The legislature commands great respect. We request you to ensure that the decision is reconsidered,” it said....