news Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | June 19, 2014 | 4.52 pm IST A lecturer in Madikeri has lodged complaints against eight journalists working with local and mainstream Kannada newspapers, in two separate cases of defamation and harassment.  Journalism lecturer Swathi H J, who teaches at a college in Madikeri, Kodagu district, has alleged that she was defamed because these journalists had vested interests in being appointed to the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee mandated to monitor paid news during the Lok Sabha election.  According to Swathi, the problem began when she was appointed to the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) constituted by the Election Commission of India on March 5, 2014. She and five others were appointed to the MCMC to monitor the news in the Mysore-Kodagu Parliamentary Constituency.  The first is a private complaint with the Prl. Judicial Magistrate in Kodagu district, in which she has alleged that three journalists had defamed her in a television programme telecast on a local news channel broadcasting in Kodava. The five others named in a second complaint lodged with the Madikeri Town police, have been accused of harassing her to withdraw the first complaint. Filed on May 9, the private complaint names three journalists: Proprietor of Channel Coorg Shridhar Nelliyathaya, Kannada Prabha reporter Anil H T, and Vijayavani reporter A R Kuttappa. Swathi has accused them of defaming her by telecasting a programme on April 5, 2014, between 6.30 pm and 8.30 pm. The private complaint states that “the accused are having a ill feeling against the complainant”, as she was made a member of the said committee “overlooking their (accused’s) names”. During the Assembly Elections in May 2013, Shridhar Nellithaya was one of the members. She states that her photograph was shown on a news programme on Channel Coorg, a local news channel and that “derogatory statements and unparliamentary words” used against her by Shridhar Nellithaya. The other two named in the complaint acted as his accomplices, she alleged in the complaint. Swathi told The News Minute that after this incident, other journalists, who were friends of the three named in her defamation complaint, accosted her several times pressuring her to withdraw the complaint. She alleged that she was threatened over the phone, and that the accused would also visit the college where she taught and speak in a derogatory manner about her. In the FIR, which the police registered on June 11, she has named five people: photographer of local newspaper Shakti Lakshmisha, Vijaya Karnataka district correspondent Jagadeesh Bellippa, Vijaya Karnataka stringer Girish, Vijayavani stringer Kishore and Vijayavani photographer (stringer) Vignesh. Police have booked them under Sections 507 (anonymous criminal intimidation), 509 (word, act, or gesture intended to outrage the modesty of a woman) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.  Swathi said that she had approached the newspapers by email but had received no response initially. A few days ago a team of three people from Vijaya Karnataka had met her and ascertained her version of things. She claimed that the editors of other newspapers that she had been in touch with, had told her that there was nothing they could do, especially when the person in question was a stringer. A stringer is a reporter who is not on the staff of a newspaper but is paid according to a mutual arrangement between the stringer and the news organization. They may be hired either to do reports or even to provide information. Local journalists are influential in the areas they work in, and do not necessarily use this influence in a negative manner. They often operate in the grey areas between local influence by association with a newspaper, good sources and stories but no reach or opportunity for growth, and financial insecurity.  Editor of Vijaya Karnataka Sugata Srinivasaraju, whose reporter Jagdish Belliyappa is one of the accused in the case relating to harassment, denied that the latter was a staff reporter. Stating that he was a stringer, Srinivasaraju said that as a “responsible newspaper”, Vijaya Karnataka had sent a team to speak to Swathi. He said that she was free to lodge a complaint with the police and that the newspaper would let the law take its course.  When asked that any influence stringers may have, derives from their association with a particular newspaper or television channel, and therefore would it not bring a bad name to the organization if they were misusing it, Srinivasaraju said: “That’s right, but what can we do?” He said that the organization would take action if the allegations against the journalist were proved. Editor of Vijayavani Thimmappa Bhat said that he was not aware of the case at all. However, he said that if the allegations against the journalists, staff or stringers, were proved, there was “no question of supporting them”.  However, Bhat added that there was “nothing he could do except warn the reporters” in the district against indulging in such activities. He said that he could pull up reporters if there were complaints against the stories published in the newspaper, but added the newspaper had “nothing to do with their activities outside” of this.  Asked about the misuse of the name of the organization, he said: “I will warn all my district reporters and stringers”. He added that the stringers were the staff of the newspaper as they had an “internal arrangement” with them. He said that if the allegations were proved, action would be taken.

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