M Raghuram | Dec 23, 2019 | 7 min read
M. Rahghuram and Coovercolly Indresh
What looks like a direct attack on media channels reporting the nationwide protest
against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, Mangaluru police arrested many
journalists from the protest sites and kept them under police custody for many hours.
According to Mangaluru police, over 50 people were detained for posing as journalists.
These ‘journalists’ had descended in Mangaluru city "to cover" riots. They were moving the
city even when there was a curfew in the city and demanded immunity from curfew citing
'on duty' reasons. But when the police asked for their identity and curfew pass which the
commissioner had issued they failed to produce any one of them, the police added.
PS Harsha, the Police Commissioner of Mangaluru issued a statement which said: "Few
people not having any accreditation cards issued by any authority, not from any formal
media and in possession of many things unconnected to reporting are being questioned."
A video of the incident came out in which a police officer stopped a reporter and asked
“No... no. Please switch it off (the camera). Show your accreditation card... prove that you
are a genuine media person.” After the reporter showed his identity, the police officer can
be seen saying “No, that is not accreditation...it is not government-issued.
You don't have access... only accredited journalists... Out!”
However, contrary to police claims, the journalists belonged to three Kerala-based
channels- News 24, Media One and Asianet and were stopped from reporting when they
were going to interview the family members and relatives of the two people killed in
police firing in Mangaluru.
Apart from this, the police also did not provide any proof or clarification on ‘possession of
many things unconnected to reporting’.
The state convener of the BJP in Karnataka Balaji Srinivas took the matter to a different
level and tweeted, “50 goonda elements from Kerala tries to enter Venlak hospital in
Mangalore in the name [of] journalists. Sources says the gang was carrying weapons and
cameras to create ruckus.”
Made to squat for hours, treated as cattle
The journalists were detained for more than seven hours and later sent back to Talapady a
border town between Kerala and Karnataka.
Mujib Rehman of Asianet recounted the seven hour ordeal that he and other journalists
underwent at the hands of Mangaluru police. “We were eight journalists from television
companies. We had taken two ‘newscasts’ early in the morning and a little later another
one. But when we went to the morgue of the district Wenlock Hospital first we were
asked to report from outside the compound by the police but later we were asked to
produce our credentials. We produced the ID cards given to us by our respective
companies. But they did not approve it and wanted only accredited journalists to cover
“We were later taken to a police van and made to sit inside for not less than two hours.
Later, we were taken to Mangalore south police station and made to squat on the floor for
another four hours. In the entire episode we did not have water or food. At 3 pm, they
dropped us at Talapady, the border town," Mujib said.
Anand Kottilla, correspondent of News 24 channel, also recounted the same ordeal. “We
never had such a bad experience so far in our service in the media, some of us have also
covered riots much bigger than this in Kerala and elsewhere. We are from Kerala media
and the accreditation card issued to us by the Kerala state government. The police in
Mangaluru were asking for accreditation card issued by the Karnataka government, which
is not possible in terms of professional standards,” Kottilla told Newslaundry.
Apart from Mujib and Anand, there were some journalists who didn’t even realise that
they were being detained until the cops snatched their mobilephones and cameras.
“First police asked us for the IDs, later they asked for accreditation card. After that,
they asked us to board the police bus to verify documents. In the bus they snatched our
mobiles and cameras. We were in the police bus for four hours and at the police station
for three hours,” said one of the journalists and wished anonymity.
Another journalist who didn’t wish to reveal his identity told that police asked them to
come out of their cars and then they pushed away their mikes and told to board the police
bus. “They made us to sit on the floor instead of seats in the bus. Police behaved with us
like were accused,” he added.
Journalists’ Association to the rescue
The Kerala Working Journalists’ Association (KWJA), Kasargod unit president Mohammad
Hasheem was the first to raise the alarm with the Kasargod Police chief James Joseph.
This was followed at the state level by the state vice president PV Kuttan. The association
had informed Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who spoke to Karnataka counterpart B S
Yediyurappa. Later, Chief Secretary of Kerala government Tom Jose also spoke to his
Karnataka counterpart and got the journalists released.
“According to initial information I got, the Mangaluru Police were planning to slam cases
against the detained journalists from Kerala. The police in Mangaluru were very curt and
brief with us and did not assign any reason for the detention when our association
contacted them,” Mohammad Hasheem told Newslaundry.
KWJA General Secretary ES Subhash speaking to Newslaundry from Tiruvananthapuram
said, "We are taking up the issue of arrest of journalists on a national scale. We are
already in touch with the Delhi Union of Journalists and will soon appeal to Union Home
Minister and the Prime Minister for making work environment for journalists safer."
Keeping the fake news peddlers at bay?
On the question of why were the journalists asked for state government-issued
accreditation despite having ID cards issued from their respective media outlets, police
sources said, “We were trying to keep in check the fake news peddlers. They do the most
damage. Many of them were social media handlers of various groups and they turn any
news to the advantage of their chosen groups. But in the case to TV journalists it is our
duty to ask for their credentials.”
"In our state our information department issues accreditation cards, which are issued after
giving due weightage to their service, and experience which becomes their valid identity
card when dealing with government officials," said a senior police officer under conditions
When asked why the journalists were treated badly, the police sources declined to
comment but only said that the journalists were only detained. “They were even offered
food and water during their brief stay at the south police station,” the official said.
Angry reactions from journalists
Arun Janardhanan, who works with Indian Express tweeted, “Mangalore
police detained several journalists today morning, according to reports in
Malayalam news channels with visuals of police action.”
Sneha Koshy, Kerala Bureau Chief of NDTV tweeted “This is not acceptable .@compolmlr these journalists have proper ID cards from their company. Not all journalists on the ground have "accreditations". Many Journalists Questioned, Detained In Mangaluru, Cops Demand IDs.”
Meanwhile, the arrest of Kerala journalists in Mangaluru triggered protests in many cities of Kerala by journalists.
According to president of the Dakshina Kannada working Journalists Union Srinivas Nayak Indaje a delegation of the union has met the Chief Minister and apprised him about the hardships that the journalists face and only few journalists have got accreditation cards and rest were not recognized in situations like this. "They need proper government identity cards to fearlessly and efficiently go on with their jobs"
More stories published under