The police in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore city on Thursday arrested the founder of a news website for publishing reports on the problems being faced by government healthcare professionals amid the coronavirus pandemic and alleging corruption by employees of a public distribution system outlet, The Hindu reported.
Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, the founder of SimpliCity, was arrested after a complaint by a Coimbatore Corporation official, who alleged that the reports published by the website were false and against the Tamil Nadu government. The complainant said that he found the “false reports” by the news platform on social media.
According to the first information report, the complainant said that one report claimed that healthcare professionals in the state were struggling for food while the other alleged that government officials were stealing from the relief fund meant for the poor. The complainant added that the reports published by the news website could be provocative enough to turn healthcare professionals and PDS employees against the government, leading to a disruption in the efforts to contain Covid-19 in the state.
Pandian was arrested for offences under Sections 188 [disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant] and 505 [publishing or circulation of any statement, rumour or report] of the Indian Penal Code and and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, which states that any person disobeying a regulation or order made under the Act shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
The news website’s founder was taken into custody late on Thursday, hours after the police questioned him along with a journalist and a photographer. He was produced before the magistrate and remanded in judicial custody.
This is the first time that the Epidemic Diseases Act has been invoked against a journalist in Tamil Nadu amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to The News Minute.
One of Pandian’s colleagues alleged that the police had also harassed their reporters. “We have been reporting news that all other portals have been publishing,” he told The News Minute. “However, we have been targeted because we are a small organisation and can be squashed. Our reporters were harassed for 10 hours in the Variety Hall police station and in RS Puram Station before the founder was arrested.”
Tamil Nadu has 1,683 cases of the coronavirus, according to the Union health ministry. Twenty people have died of Covid-19 in the state.