‘Made to squat for hours, treated like cattle’: Journalists recount being detained by Mangaluru police

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."

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

the events.”

“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

of anonymity. 

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"

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