‘Gross misuse of powers’: Editors Guild condemns K'taka Assembly for jail sentence to scribes

The Guild demanded that the Karnataka Assembly withdraw its resolution.
‘Gross misuse of powers’: Editors Guild condemns K'taka Assembly for jail sentence to scribes
‘Gross misuse of powers’: Editors Guild condemns K'taka Assembly for jail sentence to scribes
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The Editors Guild of India (EGI) urged the Karnataka Assembly to withdraw its resolution sentencing the editors of two Kannada tabloids to one year imprisonment for publishing allegedly defamatory articles.

Describing the move as “pernicious as well as gross misuse of the powers and privileges”, the Guild on Sunday submitted a letter to the Assembly asking it to revoke the sentence.

“The decision violates the fundamental right of freedom of speech guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and the freedom of the press. It is also a gross misuse of the powers and privileges of a state legislature,” The EGI statement reads.

Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, KB Koliwad, on June 22, declared that the two journalists Ravi Belagere of Hai Bangalore and Anil Raju of Yelahanka Voice, were being sentenced to one year in prison. The Assembly also fined the scribes Rs 10,000 each.

The two journalists were accused of writing “defamatory articles” against a few MLAs, including a member of the House Privileges Committee.

“The right to try and sentence journalists for defamation vests with the courts of law and the Karnataka Legislative Assembly cannot and should not misuse its powers and privileges to conduct a trial and sentence any member of the press for libel,” the statement said.

“If individuals of the legislature feel that their reputations have been affected, they are free to take the matter to court against the journalists or publication and not act as complainant, prosecution and judge as they did in this case,” the EGI added.

Expressing its disapproval to the Assembly’s resolution, and demanding that journalists must have the freedom to write articles against “all such elected representatives” of the country and hold them accountable for their actions “without fear or favour”, the Guild urges the Assembly to withdraw its resolution.

“The Guild hopes that wisdom will prevail and the Karnataka Legislative Assembly will immediately take corrective measures and withdraw its pernicious resolution against the two journalists,” it added.

Meanwhile, a team of police officers, who had camped outside the SDM Medical Hospital in Dharwad, to arrest editor of Hai Bangalore, Ravi Belagere, returned to Bengaluru as the scribe was not discharged.

A team of eight police officials had gone to Dharwad upon learning that Ravi Belagere was admitted to the hospital after complaining of chest pain and high blood pressure. Doctors, who are treating Belagere told the police that he is stable but that several tests have to be conducted, which is why he cannot be discharged.

As Monday is a staff holiday for doctors on account of Eid, the Home Department of the Karnataka government instructed the team of police officers to return to Bengaluru. The Vidyagiri Police have been charged with keeping an eye on Belagere while he is undergoing treatment.

A senior police officer said Anil Raju, the editor of Yelahanka Voice, is presently absconding.

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