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Haritha John & Siddharth Mohan Nair | The News Minute | January 13, 2015 | 1.50 PM IST Follow @HarithaJohn1 Follow @SiddharthMNair Ernakulam police claimed to have arrested the managing directors of two Malayalam news portals and later released on bail on Saturday. The arrest was following a case filed by the Mayor of Cochin city under under the draconian section 66A of the IT act. One of the editors has denied reports of arrest, and said he was only questioned. E Vartha and Marunadan Malayali, among other newspapers and websites, had published reports that the Cochin city Mayor Tony Chammany had made foreign visits using public funds and that he was using public money to build his house in the city. Though even mainstream news organizations – both print and visual – had published these reports, these two portals were in the forefront, running a relentless campaign in August and September, 2014. Their campaign was based on lies, the Mayor felt, and filed a case of defamation against the said portals with the Ernakulam Range Inspector General of Police in October 2014. Speaking to The News Minute the Mayor re-iterated that all the foreign visits that he had undertaken were sponsored by the hosts and that public money was not used. “All the foreign trips were for official purposes and Corporation funds were not used for it. There were frequent reports that I was making foreign trips using public money and there were also reports that I was diverting that money for my private needs. Other news organizations had carried these stories but they said that these were controversies and they did not fabricate stories. But these two organizations were haunting me and that is why I filed a defamation case against them,” the Mayor said. A team led by Circle Inspector of Ernakulam central station Francis Shelby investigated the matter and found that the stories were fabricated. “We found that the stories were fabricated and a case has been registered under Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act. We have collected necessary proof from the offices of these two organizations. We arrested both the managing directors of these organizations and were later let out on bail,” Shelby told The News Minute. The Managing Editor of Marunadan Malayali Sajan Scaria told that it was a clear case of witch hunting. He said that other organizations were not targeted because they were big and powerful. “I have written about such news stories that others do not do because of fear. I am therefore seen as an enemy,” he said. Scaria also contests the claim that the police arrested him. “I was asked to go to Ernakulam last December but I could not go on that date and I had written to them about my inconvenience on the said date. On Saturday a police team came to Thiruvananthapuram from Ernakulam to my office and took my statement, and I and two of my staff signed on it. Is this arrest? I do not know. I have not signed any bail bond either.” But this claim is refuted by the police. Circle Inspector Shelby told The News Minute that one cannot believe an accused. “I am the investigating officer, and I say they were arrested.” Scaria also said that the fact that a press release was issued after this shows that the police is trying to scare us. “Is this is big theft, rape or murder? Do the police issue press releases after every “arrest” they make?” He also said that he told the police that he would not delete the reports as he is sure of its authenticity. He also questioned a point in the police’s press release that the organization’s Ernakulam reporter Sreejith Sreekumaran was under look out. “He is very much available in our office and he is reachable on his telephone. The police haven’t telephoned him even once. Let them make public that Sreejith had not responded to their communication, if at all they did. They didn’t even ask me about him when they came to record my statement,” Scaria said. E Vartha, the other organization that was targeted also denies police claims. Its Managing Director Al Ameen told The News Minute that he was in the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club when the police came with a judicial order of arrest. “They said that they are doing their duty and asked me to sign on it. I signed and they left. That is all what had happened. Neither did they come to my office nor did they seize any copies of reports or other material. I do not know why they are claiming otherwise in their press release,” Al Ameen said. He also said that reports about his website deleting the controversial reports were false. They are very much there on our site, he said. “Online news portals are trying to dig out facts and are reporting those. The Mayor may be irritated but there are other newspapers and channels that also published these reports. There is no word against them. We have approached the organization for digital news portal in Kerala and we are writing a strong letter to the Chief Minister and the DGP. Every time corruption is exposed the wrong-doer may be irritated. That does not mean he can file a defamation case and use the powers vested in his office to silence portals like us. This is a clear case of high handedness,” he said. When asked if they felt let down that the main stream media channels did not cover the issue adequately and with the seriousness it should have, both replied that they regret that it did not happen. Meanwhile, Manoj Ravindran, Editor of another portal Niraksharan, who the police claimed was absconding has challenged the police version. He told The News Minute, "I was asked to report at Central police station and give a statement on this case of defamation. I did go to the Circle Inspector's office on 2014 Dec 16th and gave the statement. Now how can the media/police/mayor say that they are looking for Niraksharan (Manoj) ? Now this is a clean case of defamation against me. I'm not hiding anywhere. Living just 300 meters away from the investigation officer's desk. And they have my address, phone number, business card etc etc. This is a cooked up story by mayor and police. Even those in the media who reported police version did not take the pain to find the other side of the issue." Last month a magazine Keraleeyam was raided and few of its journalists were arrested alleging Maoist links.  Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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