The Karnataka police have filed an FIR against the editor-in-chief of a Kannada newspaper, for an article about Nikhil Kumaraswamy that the JD(S) claims is defamatory. Vishweshwar Bhat, the editor-in-chief of Vishwavani, has been accused of publishing ‘derogatory remarks’ against the Karnataka Chief Minister’s son on the front page of the paper on Saturday. A complaint was filed by Pradeep Kumar, an official of the JD(S) legal cell, at the Srirampura police station in the city on Sunday.
"We have received a complaint claiming that a news article that appeared in Vishwavani paper on Saturday about Nikhil Kumaraswamy. We have registered the FIR based on relevant sections," confirmed a police official at Srirampura police station.
The article in question is titled "Nikhil Kumaraswamy Raatri Rampata" (Nikhil Kumaraswamy's night fracas) and said that Nikhil had caused a ruckus at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mysuru on Thursday night, after he lost the Lok Sabha election to Mandya. According to the piece, an angry and drunk Nikhil threw a tantrum at the hotel on Thursday, and yelled, “It is a humiliation that I have lost to a woman. Mandya's people have not held my hand. My dream of being an MP did not come true.”
He also allegedly said, “You (Deve Gowda) got me tangled in the Mandya labryinth. In spite of having eight MLAs, we were not able to win. Didn't HD Revanna gain the support of Congress in Hassan? Why weren't you able to gain the support of Congress rebels Cheluvarayaswamy and Narendra Swamy?”
“In spite of friends and hotel officials trying to console him, he argued against them and caused a commotion,” the article said.
However, while Radisson Blu hotel confirmed that Nikhil Kumaraswamy had stayed with them on Thursday night, they denied any such incident as reported by the paper. “We have not received any complaints and there was no such incident as reported in the papers," a manager at the hotel told TNM. Though it is tough to know whether the hotel's denial is true or a forced one, it is surprising that the JD(S) has filed a case under various sections against a source-based story.
Article in Vishwavani paper on 25 May
In their complaint, the JD(S) contended that the article not only defamed Nikhil Kumaraswamy and his grandfather HD Deve Gowda, but was also "fictitious" and that no such incident took place. Police registered an FIR under IPC sections 499, 500, 501 (defamation), 504 (intentional insult), 506 (criminal intimidation), 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust), and 468 (forgery). "We are yet to intimate Vishweshwar about the FIR," added a police official at Srirampura police station.
While other publications have also subsequently reported about the incident, the JD(S) has chosen to file a complaint against Vishwavani alone.
Nikhil Kumarawamy has a history of behaving badly in public. In 2006 – when HD Kumaraswamy was the Chief Minister of Karnataka – he trashed Empire hotel in Bengaluru’s Church Street, when the restaurant refused to serve him and his friends at 3.30am. The then-19-year-old and his friends were drunk, and chucked beer bottles and attacked the staffers. "I am the CM's son and I'll get this hotel blown up and closed," Nikhil was quoted as saying by one of the hotel employees back in 2006.
Vishweshwar Bhat is the editor-in-chief of Vishwavani newspaper. He was previously the editor-in-chief of Vijaya Karnataka, Kannada Prabha, and Suvarna News.
The news of the FIR sparked an uproar on social media, with several BJP supporters and leaders in the state defending Vishweshwar. Shobha Karandlaje, BJP MP from Udupi-Chikkamagaluru took to Twitter to criticise CM HD Kumaraswamy for curtailing freedom of expression in the state.
Curtailing FOE has become the only job of @hd_kumaraswamy!!— Shobha Karandlaje (@ShobhaBJP) May 27, 2019
After witch-hunting the RW SM activists, now Co-Ja govt is after the popular media houses & it's editors.
False FIR has been reg against @VishweshwarBhat, for publishing merely a news article!!#EmergencyInKarnataka pic.twitter.com/55JYqAkxgP
Several other BJP leaders including BL Santhosh, CT Ravi, and Arvind Limbavali also took to social media to term the police action against Vishweshwar as 'Emergency in Karnataka' and said that the state government is going after print media professionals after initially filing cases against social media activists.
Dear @hd_kumaraswamy Avare,— C T Ravi ಸಿ ಟಿ ರವಿ (@CTRavi_BJP) May 27, 2019
By ordering witch-hunt against Social Media Activists & Editors of newspapers aren't you reducing Governance to a joke?
Do you think you & your family are above every one? Shouldn't you be held accountable?
Is this Democracy?#EmergencyInKarnataka
Its #EmergencyInKarnataka— Arvind Limbavali (@bjparvind) May 27, 2019
After attacking social media activists now @hd_kumaraswamy’s dictatorship is targeting journalists
FIR filed on renowned journalist @VishweshwarBhat. This state govt is a disgrace to the constitutional values & democracy set up of this nation pic.twitter.com/Z2Af8PiN29
BJP also issued a statement criticising HD Kumaraswamy over the arrest of Vishweshwar. The FIR against the editor comes weeks after police in the state took action against five BJP sympathisers – journalists Mahesh Vikram Hegde and Hemanth Kumar, and BJP supporters Shruti Belakki, Sharada Diamond, and Ajith Shetty Heranje – for instances of fake news shared by them.
Mahesh was detained and let go by the police, while Hemanth, Shruti, and Sharada were arrested for sharing a fake letter which was supposedly written by Karnataka Home Minister MB Patil to Sonia Gandhi in 2017. The letter discussed a meeting ministers held with representatives of the “Global Christian Council” and “World Islamic Organisation” regarding the strategy to be adopted for the Karnataka Assembly Elections.(The organisations do not exist).