Opposition walkout in Kerala Assembly over raid on Asianet channel

Stating the raid was never heard of in the state, Congress member P C Vishnunadh said the police action was nothing but intimidation to silence the channel.


Kerala Assembly [file photo]

March 7, 2023

NEW DELHI – The Congress-led UDF members in the Kerala Assembly on Monday staged a walkout in the House in protest against Speaker AN Shamseer’s decision to deny an adjournment motion to discuss the police raid at the Asianet News channel office in Kozhikode and the SFI attack at the channel’s Kochi office.

Moving the adjournment motion, Congress member P C Vishnunath said the police raid at the Asianet News channel office in Kozhikode was a planned move after the channel broke several stories against the ruling CPI-M.

Stating that the raid on media office was never heard of in the state, Vishnunadh said the police action is nothing but intimidatory tactics to silence the channel.

He alleged that it was an attack on press freedom and those who shed enough tears about the income tax raid on the BBC office in Delhi were silent now.

“When the Modi Government unleashed Income Tax raids on the BBC offices in Mumbai and Delhi, the CPI-M had put out a statement that said it was the standard tactic of the Modi government to intimidate the media using the IT Department,” Vishnunath said.

“You just have to replace the words Modi and IT with Pinarayi and Crime Branch and it would still read right,” he said.

Vishnunath said the Pinarayi Vijayan dispensation is using the situation to intimidate and stifle media that were giving anti-government reports.

Replying to the motion, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that there was no comparison between the action against Asianet and BBC facing Income Tax searches, after the release of a documentary critical of the Narendra Modi -led Gujarat government over the 2002 riots.

The chief minister defended the police action against Asianet News saying that the issue of freedom of press cannot be brought into it.

“The occupation of a person is not a factor while taking legal action against an individual who is involved in a criminal activity. The law does not allow it,” Pinarayi Vijayan said

“Disseminating a fake video by misusing a minor girl cannot be seen as journalism and such acts will not invite protection under the law eligible to the press. Criminal acts cannot come under the garb of press freedom,” he said.

Opposition leader VD Satheesan asked as to how a news series against the drug mafia will affect the government. He said the video in question did not show the girl’s face and it was probably an illustrated visual. He said papers and channels often give representative images and visuals and that police already filed a case based on the girl’s interview and which was backed by the child’s parents.

Condemning the police action against the channel Satheesan said “You were waiting for an opportunity to target the channel’s Kannur correspondent who broke many stories for the channel. If you have a complaint you can approach designated agencies but using police and student activists are quite unheard of.”

The Kerala Police on Sunday conducted a raid at the Kozhikode office of the popular Malayalam news channel Asianet News.

The raid was carried out on the basis of a complaint filed by Left independent MLA P V Anvar, who accused the channel of conducting a fake interview as part of its series titled “Narcotics is a dirty business” in November last year.

Police registered a case against four persons including journalists of Asianet News on the complaint of filming fake scenes. The case is registered against K Shahjahan and Naufal Bin Yusuf and two others,under charges of POCSO, forgery and conspiracy.

The raid came two days after the activists of the Student Federation of India (SFI), the students wing of CPI-M , allegedly attacked the Asianet news channel office in Kochi.

On Friday,a group of 30 SFI members entered the Asianet News regional office in Kochi, forced their way past security guards, and interfered in press operations by yelling slogans and also threatening the staff members and journalists on Friday evening .

The SFI alleged Asianet had “faked” the interview of a minor girl in connection with a news report on the drug mafia. The SFI alleged that the media house is ‘crossing the limits and is forgetting the media ethics’.

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