Eight Malayali media persons who were taken into custody on Friday morning by the Mangaluru police were released after seven hours of detention. The media persons from four prominent Malayalam news outlets — Asianet News, News 18, MediaOne and TwentyFour News — were taken to the Karnataka-Kerala border and handed over to the Kerala police.
The eight people, including a driver who worked with MediaOne, were detained from the Wenlock hospital where they were covering the post-mortem of the two protesters who died in the police firing in Mangaluru.
Speaking to the media following their release, the detained media persons said that the Karnataka police had treated them like ‘criminals.’ Though national media reporters and Kannada media were covering the post mortem, only Malayalam media reporters were detained. At the time they were detained, it was falsely reported by a few Karnataka outlets and then by an English website Daijiworld reported that fake journalists who had tried to enter Mangaluru with deadly weapons had been arrested.
Despite a few of the journalists having ID cards and accreditations issued by the Kerala government, the reporters were kept in a police van for hours. The police did not even let them drink water or eat food.
“We were one of the first few media persons to reach the hospital. Around 8.30 am, the Mangaluru Police Commissioner asked us to leave the hospital premises. We went out and then he asked for ID cards and accreditation, then we were detained. The MediaOne reporter Shabber, cameraperson Aneesh and their driver were kept separately. The police took away Sahbeer’s bluetooth headset. But Kannada media and national media were allowed to report from the same place,” Mujeeb Rahman, an Asianet News reporter said.
“They barred us from talking to each other for hours. They took away our camera and other equipment as soon as we were detained. Even when they finally handed over us to the Kerala police, they treated us like criminals,” Pratheesh Kapoth, a camerperson for Asianet News told the channel after he reached Kerala border.
According to the city Police Commissioner, the journalists were detained as they had not been carrying ‘accreditation cards.’
But the journalists say that first they were asked for ID cards, when all of them showed their ID cards, they were told that they need to be accredited journalists. When the journalists and camera persons, who have all been working with different channels for years, showed their accreditation cards, the police said they needed to inspect if these were genuine.
Speaking to Asianet, Mujeeb added that the police asked him to get into the van on the pretext that they needed to check their accreditation cards
“While I showed my accreditation card which is from Kerala, the police said they have to check the card whether it is fake or not. And they asked us to get into the vehicle. As soon as we got inside, the police officials took our phones. Though we asked why we were being detained while other local and national media were reporting without any issue, they did not give us any reason until now," he told Manorama news.
The police action came after Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai alleged that people from Kerala had come to Karnataka and instigated trouble.
Several prominent leaders including Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Karnataka AICC General secretary KC Venugopal condemned the detention. In a statement put out on Facebook, Pinarayi said “I strongly condemn those who have been portraying media reporters as violent and their news collection devices as weapons. It is a fascist attitude to curb media freedom. Public dissent should only rise higher against this attitude.”