Accused actor Dileep, who had obtained a gag order against the media reporting on the actor assault trial, had moved the court against Reporter TV.

A collage of Dileep in a white shirt and beard and Nikesh in a dark shirt and smilingDileep / Nikesh Kumar
news Journalism Monday, January 31, 2022 - 13:39
Written by  Cris

On a single day, five FIRs were filed by the Kerala police against Nikesh Kumar, head of popular Malayalam news channel Reporter TV. The police action came after a High Court order that directed them to enquire into certain allegations made by actor Dileep, who is an accused in two ongoing cases. Dileep had previously sought and obtained a gag order against the media to prevent them from reporting anything related to the first of these cases – the abduction and sexual assault of a woman actor in Kerala and filming the assault in February 2017.

In a petition filed on January 18, Dileep alleged that Reporter TV and Nikesh Kumar violated the gag order by publishing matter related to the case without prior approval of the court. The court asked the state police to conduct an enquiry into the allegations and submit a report before it in two weeks.

On January 28, the FIRs were filed, all by Cyber Crime Police Station, Kochi. The first of the FIRs mentions a story on Reporter’s online portal concerning the suicide attempt of a young woman actor, who was a witness in the actor assault case. Reporter’s story quotes a Manorama Online article to say that the Crime Branch found no connection between the suicide attempt and the Dileep case. The second and third FIRs are about a video report involving Jinson, a witness in the case and former cell-mate of Pulsar Suni, the main accused in the actor assault crime. The final two FIRs are regarding the channel debates hosted by Nikesh that included, among others, Balachandrakumar, a director whose recent revelations have proven important to the case.

All the cases have been filed under section 228A(3) – punishment for those who print or publish matters concerning rape without prior permission of court.

Balachandrakumar, who spoke of knowing Dileep earlier intimately, brought out a number of audio clips, allegedly of conversations of the actor and his relatives. His interview was first telecast on Reporter TV and the new revelations quickly caught public attention. It concerned Dileep’s relationship with Pulsar Suni and the video of the assault.

Watch: TNM's interview with Balachandrakumar

In fact, some of the audio clips also led to a second case against Dileep. It involved an alleged conspiracy by Dileep and others to kill police officials who investigated the actor assault case of 2017. One of the police officials – DySP Baiju Paulose – lodged a complaint, and an FIR was filed naming Dileep as first accused. The actor went to the High Court early enough to get an anticipatory bail. The court prevented his arrest until further hearing but let the police question him for three days.

It’s after this that the new FIRs against Nikesh were filed. “It’s totally ridiculous and an assault on freedom. The first gag order itself was quite inappropriate. The intention of a gag order in a rape case is to protect the privacy of the victim or survivor. Here it is issued to help the accused who is already enjoying all sorts of privileges while the survivor is professionally and personally marginalised,” says MG Radhakrishnan, senior journalist.

The gag order had resulted in a lot of protests, especially from women journalists across the country. In Dileep’s case, there was hardly any noise on television channels for a long time and he even appeared in programmes and events such as award shows of Malayalam channels. Balachandrakumar said that he had approached other mainstream media earlier but they didn’t telecast what he had to say. He had also approached the Chief Minister’s office. It was Reporter TV that first gave him the space to speak up.

“The gag order is both bizarre and unjust. It says that the details of the trial case should not be reported, which means that no one anywhere in the world can speak about the Dileep case in public,” says Manila C Mohan, Editor-in-Chief of Truecopy Think.

She points out how timely interventions by the media had helped uncover or bring justice in many cases of crimes against women. “Moreover, this (gag order) has the tone of a threat or a warning, that if the media touches such a case, there will be action against them. The whole case (against Dileep) now resurfaced with these new revelations by a man who had not been involved in it as a party or a witness in any manner. And through it, the alleged conspiracy against police officials also came out. But now cases are filed against Nikesh, who took a conscious decision to stand for justice. I think the whole media community should stand with him,” Manila adds.

Nikesh, who has continuously reported on the story even as most other media began covering Balachandrakumar’s revelations, tweeted on Sunday: “Anjalla ayyayiram case eduthalum nente koode” – (Not five, even if 5,000 cases are filed, I will be with you). Meaning, he will support the survivor actor.



In an interview with The Cue on Sunday, January 30, Nikesh talked about how the survivor actor had not been in the society or public space for the past five years and how young women artistes who supported her had lost opportunities at the peak of their careers. He also wondered about the double standards of the police in reinvestigating the assault case based on the revelations published on Reporter TV and then using the same revelations to file cases against the channel.

Cases have been filed only against Nikesh even though other media too have been conducting discussions on the actor assault crime, points out Premchand, journalist and film critic. “It is clear that this action (against Nikesh) is to tell the media not to practise pro-women journalism by siding with the survivor,” Premchand writes in a Facebook note.

He talks about the panellists invited by media channels to make counter arguments in the case – many of these arguments are anti-women and even justifying of rape. Several hosts let these panellists spew venom in public space and become mere agents, Premchand writes. It is condemnable that Nikesh, who has chosen to stand apart and take a pro-women stance, should be singled out and punished – is the gist of his post.



“The move against Nikesh is absurd and selective too. Why should the media be barred from publishing anything related to the incident? That too when new vital information is being revealed through the interview. And when a new case itself is registered based on those revelations? All the media have done interviews with Balachandrakumar. Why single out Nikesh?” asks Radhakrishnan.

Manila points out that if the gag order was applicable for all media reporting of the case, then an FIR should have been filed against Vanitha magazine, which recently did a cover story on Dileep and his family. “If a case can be filed for interviewing Balachandrakumar, who was previously not involved in the trial in any way, then shouldn’t one be filed against Vanitha, which did an interview of an accused and gave him space to speak?” she asks.

The cover image and the detailed story, sympathising with the accused actor and published with a flattering introduction, was condemned by many. Some readers had protested by cutting out the image of the accused, burning it and sending the ashes to the office of Manorama, the parent organisation.

Read: Vanitha magazine's cover with Dileep and family triggers outrage

Both MG Radhakrishnan and Premchand urge the state government to show that ‘Kerala is not like UP’, a state whose justice system has come under sharp criticism.

“When the court asked for a report, the police went out of the way to file an FIR (against Reporter TV). There are strong sections, both in the police and judiciary, bent upon saving the culprits and denying justice to the survivor. It’s pathetic that such travesty of justice which is routine in states like UP is happening in Kerala,” Radhakrishnan says.