Bengaluru: Strongly disapproving of the decision of the Legislative Assembly and the Speaker to sentence two journalists to one year in prison for publishing allegedly defamatory articles against a few House members, the Editors Guild of India on Sunday urged the Speaker to withdraw the decision without any delay. According to a note released by the Editors Guild, the decision violates the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and the freedom of the press. The decision is also gross misuse of the powers and privileges of the state legislature, the note added. The Editors Guild is of the firm view that journalists must have the freedom to write critical articles against all elected representatives and hold them accountable for their actions without fear or favour.
The Guild also pointed out that the right to try and sentence journalists for defamation vests with the courts of law and the Assembly cannot and should not misuse its powers and privileges to conduct a trial and sentence any member of the press for libel. “The privilege of the Assembly, under which this action is taken, is not even codified. If individuals of the legislature feel that their reputations have been affected, they are free to take the matter to court against the journalists or publication and not act as complainant, prosecution and judge as they did in this case,” the note stated and added that the Guild hopes that wisdom will prevail and the Assembly will take corrective measures and withdraw its resolution against the two journalists.
Suresh Kumar kicks off debate
State BJP leader and former law and parliamentary affairs minister, S. Suresh Kumar on Sunday appealed to Privilege Committee chairman Kimmane Ratnakar to reconsider the resolution recommending that the two journalists be sent to prison. In his Facebook post, Mr Kumar said that the resolution against Ravi Belagere and Anil Raju – who were sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of Rs 10,000 each — would lead to unnecessary confrontation between the executive and the media.
“I do not think the view expressed by the journalists, infringes on members’ privileges. “These certainly come under the defamation clause. So, members can find suitable legal remedy by booking the journalists under a defamation case,” the minister argued.
B’luru cops return empty-handed!
Bengaluru Crime Branch police officials, who were camping outside SDM Hospital in Dharwad to arrest Ravi Belagere, editor of Hai Bengaluru, a Kannada weekly, returned empty handed on Sunday. Sources said they returned following a direction from the home ministry as the state government has come under severe criticism for trying to arrest the journalist, who has been sentenced to a year in jail by Assembly Speaker K.B. Koliwad on charges of breach of privilege. He was admitted to the hospital on Sunday morning after complaining of chest pain and high blood pressure.
Though doctors treating him claimed that he is stable, they have not revealed when he will be discharged from the hospital. They have conducted several tests including some on the brain and heart. The reports of these tests are awaited as several hospital staff are absent until Monday due to the Ramzan festival. However, local police are keeping an eye on the journalist and have deployed four constables to guard the ward in which Belagere is undergoing treatment. The journalist is expected to file a petition in the high court on Tuesday challenging the move of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly to jail him.