Kerala police conducts 'search' of Asianet News office in Kozhikode
A senior police officer, who was leading the team that arrived at the Kozhikode office, later told reporters that the "search" was carried out as part of the investigation in the case
Days after a group of SFI activists allegedly barged into the Kochi office of Malayalam news channel Asianet News, Kerala police on Sunday carried out a "search" at the Kozhikode office of the media house office in connection with a case.
A senior police officer, who was leading the team that arrived at the Kozhikode office, later told reporters that the "search" was carried out as part of the investigation in the case.
"No documents have been taken," the officer said.
According to news reports, the case registered by police is based on a complaint lodged by a politician alleging that an interview done by the channel of a schoolgirl who was allegedly forced to work as a drug courier was fake news.
On March 3, Students' Federation of India (SFI) activists trespassed into the Kochi office of the news channel and intimidated the staff there. A case was later registered against 30 SFI activists, the students' wing of the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala, on the basis of a complaint lodged by the channel.
Following the police action, Asianet News tweeted: "Days after SFI hooliganism, Kerala Police conducts 'search' at Asianet News Kozhikode office. Regardless, Asianet News continues to report, true to its motto: Straight. Bold. Relentless. #AttackOnMedia #PressFreedom #AsianetNewsAttacked." The search was condemned by the Congress and BJP in Kerala which termed it as "a sign of intolerance" and a "fascist approach", respectively.
Congress leader V D Satheesan said the police action was "a sign of intolerance against protests, criticism or questioning of those in power" and it has been on a rise in the state.
The Leader of Opposition said such actions indicate that there is no difference between the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Pinarayi Vijayan regime in Kerala.
Satheesan also referred to Vijayan as the 'mundu (dhoti) wearing Modi'. He said that Modi used the income tax to raid BBC offices and the Kerala Chief Minister used the crime branch wing of police to search the Asianet News office.
BJP's Kerala unit president K Surendran said the search at the Asianet News office was "an example of the fascist approach" of the state government towards the media.
Meanwhile, BJP Rajya Sabha member Prakash Javadekar condemned the recent attack on the Kochi office of the news channel.
"It was a violent and brutal attack. It is an attack on freedom of the press in the country. It cannot be tolerated. There is no reason for the justification for the violence and terrorising of the employees. It is not done. State government should arrest all those who attacked the Asianet office," he said.
BJP chief spokesperson Anil Baluni tweeted: "Left intimidation politics which Tripura voters rejected, on full display in Kerala - as CM Pinarayi facing serious corruption charges n talks about freedom of speech, fascism etc uses his SFI goondas n police to intimidate Kerala Media." The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) also condemned the police action.
The Press Club of India, Indian Women's Press Corps, Delhi Union of Journalists and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists issued a joint statement against the SFI's act by trespassing into the office, pointing out that barging into media offices is "illegal" and should be considered as "an attack on press freedom".
"We expect the Kerala government to take strict action against those who attacked Asianet," the journalists' bodies said.