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Indian High Court rejects detained journalist's bail plea

UPDATE: India withdraws charges against journalist Naveen Soorinje (CPJ, 31 January 2013)

(IFJ/IFEX) - January 8, 2013 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in India in condemning the continued detention of Naveen Soorinje, a journalist with the Kasturi TV news channel, in Mangalore city in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Soorinje has been held since November 7 on charges of involvement in a right-wing vigilante group's attack on a group of reveling teenagers in a Mangalore resort on July 28.

Following a failure to obtain bail from a local magistrate's court in Mangalore, Soorinje made an appeal to the High Court of Karnataka, which ruled on November 19 that criminal proceedings be postponed until it arrived at a determination in the matter.

On December 26, the High Court rejected the bail plea on the grounds that Soorinje's video recording of the attack indicated his complicity.

Journalists' unions in Mangalore city and neighbouring Udupi have been campaigning for Soorinje's release on the grounds that he was carrying out his job as a journalist after being alerted to the attack by a source who was close to the incident.

In fact it was Soorinje's recording of the incident that assisted local police in identifying and arresting many of the individuals responsible for the violence.

On January 5, the Karnataka Union of Working Journalists and other bodies rallied in the state capital of Bangalore and the cities of Mysore and Mangalore, demanding Soorinje's freedom and unconditional discharge.

At a meeting with the Home Minister of Karnataka this week, journalists' unions were assured that the State Cabinet would consider the matter and could make a request to local police to drop all charges against Soorinje.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific stands in solidarity with the journalists' unions in their campaign. "We call for the Indian authorities to recognize the value of public service journalism as carried out by Soorinje, rather than continue his victimisation which undermines press freedom".

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