VG Vineetha, a journalist working with the Malayalam television channel 24 News, has been arraigned by the Kerala police as the fifth accused in the recent incident of hurling shoes at a bus in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was travelling. The incident happened during the state government’s outreach program, Nava Kerala Sadas, on December 10, in a protest organised by the Kerala Students Union (KSU), a student wing of the opposition Congress.
Following the protest in which a shoe was allegedly hurled at a bus in which Pinarayi was travelling, the Kuruppampady police earlier registered an FIR against four individuals associated with KSU – state office bearer Basil P, and activists Devakumar T, Jibin Mathew, and Jaiden Johnson – under sections 283 (danger or obstruction in public way), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), read with section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). On December 22, the police arraigned Vineetha as the fifth accused in the case.
Police sources allege that Vineetha had been in constant communication with a few KSU workers, suggesting that she was aware of the planned protest. They argue that as a journalist, she should have informed law enforcement officers about the impending demonstration.
While the exact charges against Vineetha have not been officially announced by the police, 24 News has reported that she has been charged with criminal conspiracy. This development has sparked a significant protest from the community of media persons in Kerala. Many have questioned how the police can book a journalist for being in touch with political leaders before a protest as that’s what all journalists do.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan, supporting the police action, urged the media to prove that there was no conspiracy. "There is no problem in doing journalism here. Now police have registered a case, saying there is a conspiracy. You say there is no conspiracy, so you can prove that. I don't distrust this case," remarked the Chief Minister. He also lost his cool at the media when journalists questioned police action and said that he will not do a scrutiny of the police action as he trusts the case.
Left Democratic Front (LDF) Convener EP Jayarajan claimed that it is not the government's policy to take action against journalists, and emphasised the state government’s commitment to protecting press freedom. "If there has been any mistake in this issue, we will inquire about that," he stated.
However, in recent times, the police have booked cases against several journalists including Rejaz Sydeek for an article alleging anti-Muslim bias by the Kerala police and R Sunil of the Madhyamam for writing on alienation of tribal land. In June 2023, Asianet News journalist Akhila Nandakumar was booked after Students' Federation of India (SFI) leader PM Arsho alleged that she was part of a conspiracy to cast aspersions on his exam results. The FIR led to much outrage and in October, the police told the Kerala High Court that Akhila was removed as an accused in the case as there was no evidence against her.