The Editors Guild of India on Friday criticised the police action against a reporter with the television news channel 24 News in Kerala in connection with a students union protest on December 10 near Odakkali village in Ernakulam district.
The reporter, Vinita VG, has been booked in a case registered against some members of the Kerala Students Union, the student wing of the Congress, for throwing shoes at a bus carrying Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and a few of his Cabinet members.
The union’s state office bearer Basil P and activists Devakumar T, Jibin Mathew and Jaiden Johnson have also been booked in connection with the incident.
In its statement, the press body said that reporter Vinita VG has been booked for criminal conspiracy and been issued a notice to appear for interrogation.
“While the Editors Guild does not condone any act of violence, it deplores in strongest words the police action against the reporter,” the Guild’s statement continues. “To cover protests is a media responsibility and is no crime. A reporter’s presence at a protest site does not make him or her complicit in any untoward incident that may have occurred.”
The guild urges the Kerala government to not punish the reporter for discharging her professional duty. “It would do well to instruct the police to withdraw the charges against the reporter, and uphold norms of press freedom,” it added.
The incident took place during the district leg of the Navakerala Sadas Cabinet tour led by Vijayan. While one shoe hit the bus, the other landed on the windshield of the security escort vehicle, The Hindu reported.
An unidentified official claimed that the reporter “had prior information” about the plan to throw shoes at the bus, reported The Hindu. “She was duty bound to alert the law enforcement about it,” the official told the newspaper.
The others booked in the case have been charged with Sections 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and 308 (attempt to culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
A magistrate’s court in Perumbavoor, while granting them bail, had questioned the police why Section 308 had been invoked in the matter, The Hindu reported.