A media advocacy and action group formed to monitor the state of media freedom in Tamil Nadu on Monday called for the protection of local television reporters summoned by the Kanyakumari Police on December 5 in connection with a trespassing case against two French journalists.
The Alliance for Media Freedom sought a fair investigation in the allegations against Chennai-based journalists D Ananthakumar and M Sriram, who had visited Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts along with French investigative reporters Jules Giraudat and Arthur Bouvart from November 23 to 25. The French journalists were working on a documentary film on illegal sand mining.
The Kanyakumari Police summoned Ananthakumar and Sriram on November 28 and allegedly detained them illegally for a day. The Frenchmen and a priest have already been booked for allegedly entering the restricted zones in a facility owned by Indian Rare Earths Limited.
“The journalists will continue to cooperate with the police in this ongoing investigation,” N Ram, the chairperson of The Hindu Publishing Group, said at a press conference at the Chennai Press Club on Monday.
The advocacy group’s Convener Peer Mohamed criticised the police for allegedly detaining the two journalists in contravention of law, and requested Director General of Police TK Rajendran to order an investigation into the matter.
Mohamed and Ram asked why the police had issued summons when the two journalists were in the office of the deputy superintendent of police. They wondered if the police intended to cover up the illegality of the detention. They also asked why the police had asked the reporters not reveal to other agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, that the French journalists were investigating illegal beach sand mining.
Ram criticised Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan for allegedly calling the French journalists spies who had arrived in the country via sea. The veteran journalist cautioned the media not to accept such statements without questioning them. “We have to report it critically,” he added.