UPDATE: Indian reporter who filmed attack on women free on bail (Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 March 2013)
(IFJ/IFEX) - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned to learn of a legal challenge to the decision to drop charges against Naveen Soorinje, now under arrest for over three months on charges of involvement in a July 2012 vigilante attack on a group of partying teenagers in the city of Mangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Soorinje, who is a reporter for the Kasturi TV channel based in Mangalore, was alerted to the possibility of an attack by local witnesses and arrived at the site soon after activists of a group that styles itself as the Hindu Jagaran Vedike began assembling.
According to the testimony he has filed both before the police investigators and a civil rights organisation based in Karnataka, he was unsure initially about the intentions of the group that had gathered. As soon as the attack began, he made efforts to inform local police authorities, while a cameraman who accompanied him recorded the violent events - footage that was later used by police to identify the perpetrators.
Soorinje's arrest led to widespread protests and his subsequent pleas for bail were rejected. In a review of Soorinje's case on January 31, the cabinet in Karnataka state decided to drop all charges. But with the cabinet decision awaiting the signature of the chief minister of Karnataka, a lawyer based in the state capital of Bengaluru made a plea to the high court that the decision to drop the charges was illegal.
The high court has since, issued notice to the state government and suggested that if charges against Soorinje are dropped, the court may order their reinstatement.
"We are seriously concerned at this move to further detain Soorinje," said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
"Journalists cannot be held responsible to stop civil unrest or illegal activities. To pursue the case against him any further would be a serious deterrent to journalists in conscientiously carrying out their professional responsibility to report cases of civil unrest or illegal activities."