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 Asianet News and intimidated the staff over a news report about the sexual assault of a girl that was telecast in November 2022, police said.
A case was registered on Friday against around 30 activists of the SFI, the student wing of the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala, on the basis of a complaint lodged by the TV channel. In a report, Asianet News described the attack as a “brazen act of hooliganism”.
What was the complaint?
The SFI activists allegedly entered the office around 8 pm on Friday by raising slogans against the news channel after pushing aside the security staff and intimidated its employees, the police said. CPI(M) sources on Saturday alleged that there was a complaint against the news channel for allegedly creating a fake news using a minor girl about alleged sexual assault of over 10 girl students at a school in northern Kerala.
CPIM's student wing SFI barged into Kochi office of Asianet News alleging that interview of a POCSO case victim conducted by the news org was fake. A case was registered by Palarivattom Police after the Res Editor of Asianet News filed a complaint, Kerala— ANI (@ANI) March 4, 2023
(Source: Asianet News) pic.twitter.com/4rDe1zGh9z
Sources in the SFI Ernakulam District Committee sought to justify the action by claiming that the student outfit organised the march to the Kochi office of the media house in protest against fake news run by it. The news channel had run the story as part of its programme last year on the drug menace in the state.
Police said the activists have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting) and 149 (forming an illegal assembly for the prosecution of a common object of murder).
Press Clubs demand action
Press associations such as the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Thiruvananthapuram Press Club and Press Club of India criticised SFI's action. The Press Club of India urged the Kerala government to launch an investigation into the incident.
“We express concern and lodge our protest over SFI activists reportedly entering the @AsianetNewsML office in Ernakulam and intimidating the staff. These strong-arm tactics have no place in a democracy. The Kerala government should probe this incident swiftly,” the Press Club of India said in a tweet on Friday.
We express concern and lodge our protest over SFI activists reportedly entering the @AsianetNewsML office in Ernakulam and intimidating the staff.— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) March 3, 2023
These strong arm tactics have no place in a democracy.
The Kerala government should probe this incident swiftly. pic.twitter.com/pLHmz3vWYN
(With PTI inputs)