Flix Friday, January 16, 2015 - 05:30
Haritha John | The News Minute | January 15, 2015 | 2.30 pm IST A wide online protest has erupted against Kochi mayor Tony Chammany following police action against two online news portal editors, who according to Chammany, had defamed him. Kochi police in a press release on Monday had claimed that they had arrested the managing directors of Malayalam news portals Marunadan Malayali and e Vartha on Saturday and they were later released on bail. It has also said that an editor of a third portal, Niraksharan.in was absconding. These portals, among other newspapers and websites, had published reports that Tony Chammany had made foreign visits using public funds and that he was using public money to build his house in the city. Read : Police action against two website editors for reports against Kochi Mayor, no case on mainstream media The arrest was following a case filed by the Mayor of Cochin city under the draconian section 66A of the IT act. Protestors question use of 66A From the time the news about the arrests came out, Mayor, police and mainstream news papers which refused to take a stand in support of the portals, faced the wrath of netizens who criticised them through tweets, blogs and Facebook posts. Earlier these arrests were condemned by the Digital News Media Federation (DNMF) - which is an association of govt-approved news portals. Meanwhile, apart from social media protests, most of the main online news portals in the state have extended their support to protect the rights of online media through their write ups. Apparently, there are also reports that an association will be formed for online news portal employees in Kerala. Former MP and MLA Sebastian Paul has described this incident as highly dangerous, in an article he wrote on an online portal, he says, "Kerala shows the traces of emergency again, police interference in Keraleeyam magazine, Marunadan Malayali and E- vartha shows really dangerous signals” he wrote. Paul has also questioned the state’s policy in protecting freedom of speech and expression in the article. An online campaign against this incident started by a Facebook group Oppumaram has also gained wide acceptance. The group has called the incident an act to suppress online media alone that even mainstream news organizations – both print and visual – had published these reports against Chammany and no action was taken against them. “Authorities are really disturbed over the growth of online media. The fourth pillar of democracy whether it is online or offline, should be treated equally and they have equal rights” said in the campaign slogan by Oppumaram. Manoj Raveendran a blogger with the pen name Niraksharan, had clarified in his blog that he just shared a news came on a mainstream news channel, and he was not absconding as claimed by the police. The Managing Editor of Marunadan Malayali Shajan Skariah told The News Minute that this was a move to suppress online news portals. “The main revenue of mainstream news media are advertisements so they are forced to hide many news. But we online portals don’t have to do that, we do factual reporting, so they are scared of us” he said. He has also contested the claim by mainstream media in Kerala that tried hard to establish that online media fabricated the news. “Our reports were factual. But some in mainstream media played well to harm our credibility” he added Since social media has taken up the issue, the 66 A of IT Act is being discussed critically. Media professionals have pointed out that the act was introduced before the online news portal era and the act needs to be amended now. Shajan has also pointed that a group of online news media are likely to approach court seeking an exemption of news portals from 66A of IT Act. Tweet
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