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IPI condemns newspaper blockade in Kerala state

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 3 November 2011 - The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of publishers, editors, and leading journalists, joins the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in condemning the blockade of newspapers in Kerala orchestrated by the trade-union wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]. CPI(M) was apparently angered at reports by the newspapers.

For the past 13 days, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has been physically obstructing the distribution of Malayala Manorama and other publications of the Manorama Group in and around the city of Calicut. Distribution agents from the paper have been threatened with violence by CITU workers if they proceed with delivery.

The blockade has since grown to include another Kerala paper, Mathrubhumi Daily. Additionally, the disruption of the supply of both newspapers has spread to the neighbouring district of Kannur.

Any attempt to obstruct the distribution of newspapers is a direct attack on freedom of the press and on citizens' right to information. IPI calls on CPI(M) to unconditionally halt its blockade of Mathrubhumi Daily and Malayala Manorama, which are both members of IPI.

CPI(M) has long been at odds with Malayala Manorama in particular and the recent disruptions began as the paper published a feature series on organisational problems within the Kerala unit of CPI(M).

IPI condemns what appears to be an attempt at censorship and joins the INS in demanding that the people of Kerala be allowed to receive the newspaper of their choice.

IPI Board Member and IPI India National Committee Chairman N. Ravi said: "These attacks by intolerant groups are becoming all too common in India. I would call upon state governments to protect freedom of speech and the media from such attacks."

IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie added: "All people have a fundamental right to knowledge about the world around them. Due to this blockade, thousands of newspaper readers in Kerala are currently being denied that right. We appeal to CITU and CPI(M) to end their attack on press freedom in Kerala immediately."

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