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Several journalists attacked, injured while covering student demonstration in Kerala, amid police indifference

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 27 June 2008 IPI letter to Chief Minister H.E. V. S. Achuthanandan and Home Minister H.E. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan:

H.E. V. S. Achuthanandan
Chief Minister
Government of Kerala

H.E. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan
Home Minister
Government of Kerala

Vienna, 27 June 2008

Your Excellencies,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, would like to express its concern at yesterday's despicable attacks on a team of reporters and photographers during a march organised by the Students' Federation of India (SFI) in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

According to information before IPI, on 26 June, a team of reporters from the daily Malayala Manorama and the Manorama News Channel were attacked while covering demonstrations held by the SFI, an organisation linked politically to the communist Marxist party, in the Kerala city of Kottayam.

Manorama News reporter Pradeep Joseph had arrived at the scene of the demonstrations to report on acts of physical violence carried out by SFI members against activists from the Kerala Students Union and the Youth Congress in front of the city's Belios College. While reporting on the incident, he was set upon by SFI activists and repeatedly punched and kicked. Joseph took refuge in a police car, but was apprehended by his attackers, who continued to physically assault him.

Malayala Manorama journalists Nishad Kurien and Arun John, who were trying to report on the attack on Joseph, were also brutally attacked, while cameraman C Abhilash and driver Sabu were assaulted while attempting to save Joseph from his assailants.

Following the attacks on the journalists, the SFI activists turned their attention to the Manorama offices, which they pelted with stones, causing damage to the building and to vehicles parked in the vicinity. The team of reporters was hospitalised following the attack, where two of them remain due to the serious nature of the injuries they incurred.

Physical attacks on journalists represent the most serious threat to the fundamental right to press freedom. As such, all action must be taken to ensure that the perpetrators of these attacks are brought to justice, and that such events do not repeat themselves. Therefore, IPI calls on the authorities in Kerala to carry out a thorough investigation of the matter and to bring all those responsible for the violence to account for their actions.

IPI would also like to express its deep concern at the reported inaction of the police authorities during the attacks on the journalists. The authorities have a duty to intervene in such matters, not only to defend the journalists' right to practice their profession, but also to safeguard the lives of citizens and to prevent public unrest. As such, IPI calls on the authorities to carry out a full inquiry into the actions of the police during the protests and attacks, and to draft recommendations to ensure that there is no repeat of this event.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely,

David Dadge

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