Journalists have not been allowed in court premises for almost three months

Kerala HC lawyers fixed on keeping few beat reporters out of court will allow others back
news Kerala Media Lawyers Tussle Tuesday, October 04, 2016 - 17:40

In the backdrop of the ongoing lawyer-media tussle in Kerala, it is with a heightened sense of trepidation that this reporter entered the Kerala High Court premises in Ernakulam.

As I entered court, a lawyer jokingly wants to know, “Don’t you need any police protection?”, while another who passes by me asked why I had not gone to the court to confirm the news of the alleged assault on journalists last Friday.

“You could have seen for yourself whether we were attacking all media persons who were present on the court premises,” he said.

Trouble between journalists and advocates started in July this year, with the violence spilling onto almost three courts. What started as incongruity over how the media covered an alleged sexual harassment by a government pleader soon snowballed into a full blown fight. Reporters have been refused access to courts for almost three months now.

“We have no problem with the presence of the media here. It is those few reporters (court beat reporters with different channels and papers) who should keep away from the court, at least for the time being,” chorus a few lawyers, who express their displeasure over news reports, but were fine with speaking to a reporter who were not on their ‘ban list’.

There were news reports last Friday of how eight reporters were threatened with bodily harm by lawyers, if they did not leave the court premises immediately. When the reporters sought to meet state Chief Justice Mohan M Shantana Goudar, he declined and asked them to file a complaint with the court registrar. 
This was despite a meeting held the previous day that was chaired by Kerala Chief Justice himself, with the office bearers of Kerala High Court Advocates Association (KHCAA), senior advocates MK Damodaran and S Sreekumar and seven senior High Court judges present.

Following the said meeting, the Chief Justice himself had assured the media that reporting of court proceedings could resume with immediate effect.

Yet the advocates chose to defy what was agreed upon in the meeting, with them even threatening to trash the few reporters identified by them, if they were ever seen in court, according to P Ramdas, court reporter of The New Indian Express.

The reporters later had to be escorted out of the court premises by the police after they filed a complaint with the registrar. 

But advocates completely deny the whole incident and insist that there were no untoward occurrences on the said date, even alleging that the news was a fabricated one.

They did however admit to the fact that they were against the presence of the ‘few’ reporters identified by them on the court premises.

“All those reports are completely baseless. Nothing happened. Except for those few, any journalist is welcome to come here and corroborate the same,” says advocate Sybi.

“With regard to the other cases, we shall move legally,” he adds.

Advocate JS Ajithkumar alleges that the few reporters had visited the court last Friday just to provoke the lawyers. “There was no clash, as reported. They came here with police protection, the very same reporters who began the issue two months ago. A few lawyers asked them why they needed police protection. That’s all,” he says.

“It was they who ‘created’ the issue. All the initial issues had already been resolved, but these guys just made it worse. Hence their presence in court disturbs us. They should therefore keep away at least for some time,” opines Ajithkumar.

He admits that advocates have no right to say whether the media should or should not enter court rooms: “We have not imposed restrictions of any kind here. The media can enter court rooms. We have no right to say whether reporters should or should not enter a judge’s chambers. That is for the court to decide. We have problems only with those ‘few’.”

In the conciliatory meetings that were held, it was decided that press- rooms inside court premises will no longer be functional. “But the court can take a call on that too,” he feels.

A section of the advocates also expressed their unhappiness with the lawyers who work as stringers for different media houses.

While the advocates remain steadfast about not allowing the ‘few’ to report from the court premises, journalists in the state find such obstinacy incomprehensible.

“How is that possible? Should we change our beats, as per their demands? Every reporter should have the right to enter court rooms,” avers a senior reporter with a leading daily.

Speaking to The News Minute, C Rahim -Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) Thiruvananthapuram district president- seconds the same.

“That is not a right stance to adopt. How can only certain journalists be targeted and banned from reporting on court proceedings? It is the media’s job to report on happenings from all over the place. And our courts function to ensure justice for all. Not all the lawyers are against these ‘few’ reporters, but only a select few. We cannot accept such a selective approach to resolving the conflict,” Rahim remarks.

Meanwhile, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that the issue has been sorted and the same had been informed to him by the Advocate General.
 

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