The Kerala Police on Thursday questioned the editor of Maktoob Media in connection with a report about blasts at a Jehovah’s Witnesses gathering in the Ernakulam district last month.
On October 31, the police filed a case against freelance journalist Rejaz M Sheeba Sydeek in connection with a report that he wrote for the news website. The article, published on October 30, alleged that in the aftermath of the blasts in Ernakulam district, the police detained several Muslim men for hours.
The police in the Kozhikode Rural district booked Sydeek under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with “giving provocation with the intent to cause a riot”.
On Thursday, the police summoned and interrogated Aslah Kayyalakkath, the editor of Maktoob, in connection with the case.
Shaheen Abdulla, the deputy editor of the news portal, alleged that an official threatened Kayyalakkath that the police may invoke stringent provisions in the first information report.
“The FIR against the journalist is proof of their anti-Muslim bias,” he told Scroll. “They singled out our work despite the story being objective and factual...We are in touch with our lawyers and contemplating legal options.”
Maktoob Media said that it stands by its report and said that the reporter is facing an “arbitrary” police investigation. “We have reached out to the reporter and ensured legal aid from the organisation,” it said on social media.
The news portal also said that the police visited Kayyalakkath’s home even though he showed willingness to cooperate with the investigation.
“The FIR threatens the journalistic independence of reporting stories without reprisal,” it said. “The case reflects on the accusations made in the report under investigation. Maktoob has been singled out for reporting an important story that holds police accountable.”
The news organisation urged the Kerala government to quash the “arbitrary case” and ensure the safety of journalists in the state.
At least two big explosions occurred at a convention organised by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kalamassery municipality area on October 29. The blasts left five persons dead and dozens injured.
Hours after the blasts, a man named Dominic Martin surrendered to the police in the Thrissur district claiming responsibility for them. He was arrested the next day on charges of murder as well as under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Explosives Act.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an international Christian denomination founded in the United States in the 1870s.