An eight-member Kerala police team conducted searches of the Asianet news office as part of its ongoing investigation into the telecast of an alleged "fake" news report about the sexual assault of a girl in November 2022.
The searches come days after a group of activists from the Students' Federation of India (SFI), which is the students wing of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala, allegedly trespassed into the office of Malayalam news channel and intimidated the staff.
#BREAKING Days after SFI hooliganism, Kerala Police conducts searches at @AsianetNewsML Kozhikode office #AsianetNewsTargetted #AttackOnAsianetNews— Asianet Newsable (@AsianetNewsEN) March 5, 2023
Read: https://t.co/DP1BNEP62U pic.twitter.com/pFcWzZ3EQj
Former Home Minister of Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala condemned the "raids" on the news channel. "Independent press freedom is under threat in Kerala under CPM and Pinarayi Vijayan rule. Media is harassed and threatened if news against CM or Government is telecast. This is murder of democracy," he said.
Strongly condemn the raid on Asianet office in Kozhikode by the Kerala Police. Independent press freedom is under threat in Kerala under CPM and Pinarayi Vijayan rule. Media is harassed and threatened if news against CM or Government is telecast. This is murder of democracy. pic.twitter.com/KKNYAFBPxs— Ramesh Chennithala (@chennithala) March 5, 2023
What is the complaint against the news channel?
CPI(M) sources on Saturday alleged that there was a complaint against the news channel for allegedly creating fake news using a minor girl about alleged sexual assault of over 10 girl students at a school in northern Kerala.
According to a report by The NewsMinute, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had clarified the claims of the case and stated that a POCSO case was also registered at the Kannur town police station based on the complaint of the victim’s father and a chargesheet has been filed in the case. However, CM said that they have not managed to verify whether other students in her class have also been subjected to abuse, as the girl was seen saying in the news report, according to the TNM report.
According to the report, the minor’s story was aired first by Asianet News in August 2022 as a report by another reporter and the audio was used for the November 2022 report too, but the channel did not mention that this had been reported earlier by them.
What did press associations say?
The journalists' bodies condemned the SFI "attack" on the office yesterday. They said Asianet News had used "a mock video" to bring out the issue of drug and sexual abuse of a young girl in Kerala. "Stamping such a programme as fake news suggests ignorance of the professional ways used by news organisations to protect the identity of victims of sexual assault," they said, adding, "There are methods and platforms to raise complaints against any news item in a legal manner."
They also said that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear in the Assembly that the police were looking into a complaint against the news report in question. "Barging into media offices is illegal and should be considered as an attack on press freedom. We expect the Kerala government to take strict action against those who attacked Asianet," they said.
(With PTI inputs)