Karnataka state assembly jails two editors for defamation26 Jun, 2017
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the state legislative assembly speaker’s approval to jail two editors for a year in Karnataka state, south-western India on June 21. The IFJ demands immediate withdrawal of the order.
The Speaker of Karnataka legislative assembly K B Koliwad authorised the one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 (USD 200) of Ravi Belagere, editor of weekly tabloid Hai Bangalore, and Anil Raj, editor of a local tabloid Yelahanka Voice for publishing reports criticising the members of legislative assembly (MLAs).
Belagere was punished for the article published in September 2014 about Koliwad’s attempt to get into state cabinet. Koliwad himself move a motion on breach of privilege by the editor and had chaired the hearing as the chairman of the privileges committee. Raj, was punished on the basis of a motion by two other MLAs which the committee found to be defamatory.
The Karnataka legislative assembly secretariat had written to the Bengaluru police commissioner to initiate action against Belagere and Raj. On June 24, Belagere, who has been ailing for a while, was admitted to a hospital.
In a statement, Belgere said: “I am strong enough to fight a legal battle against a system that attempts to curtail my rights to write about the mistakes and failures of the government.” In a Facebook post, he said: “Write against a politician, you will be in jail. That’s the message we got now.”
The Editors Guild of India has expressed its strong disapproval of the decision saying that the decision violates the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and the Freedom of the Press. The Guild said: “It is also a gross misuse of the powers and privileges of a state legislature. The Guild urges the Karnataka Assembly to withdraw its resolution without delay.”
The IFJ said: “The approval by the Karnataka state assembly speaker to jail two editors for a year for reports published on their newspapers hits the very essence of critical journalism. Journalism supports democracy and survives because of its questioning to the people in authority such as politicians and jailing editors has a chilling effect on media and journalists. The IFJ urges the Karnataka State Assembly to immediately withdraw the decision as it’s against the norms of freedom of expression and press freedom.”