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Centre seeks reversal of TN Assembly order

All-India Anti Terrorist Front chairman M.S. Bitta along with front activists demonstrate against the Tamil Nadu Government decision
All- India Anti Terrorist Front
M.S. Bitta along with front activists demonstrate against the Tamil Nadu Government decision of arresting the publisher, Editor, Executive Editor and two senior journalists of The Hindu, Jantar- Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. 

New Delhi/Chennai, November 9
Amidst stepped-up protests against Tamil Nadu assembly order to arrest six senior journalists of “The Hindu” and “Murasoli” raged, the Centre today sought reversal of the directive even as Speaker K. Kalimuthu sought to absolve Chief Minister Jayalalithaa saying she had no role in the decision of the legislature. Defending the decision he said the Press had no extra-constitutional powers.

The Supreme Court takes up tomorrow the petition of the five senior journalists of ‘The Hindu’, including Editor N Ravi and Executive Editor Malini Parthasarathy, challenging the legality of the Assembly resolution sentencing them to 15 days’ imprisonment.

With journalists across the country continuing their protests, ‘The Hindu’ Editor-in-Chief N. Ram said he would send a detailed report to the Union Home Ministry on the police entry into the daily’s office in Chennai and interception allegedly by the Tamil Nadu police of a car carrying him and the newspaper’s Joint Managing Director N Murali in Bangalore.

As 500 journalists sat on a protest hunger strike in Chennai, Ram told reporters on its sidelines that Union Information Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had spoken to him conveying that ‘The Hindu’ was being “subjected to improper things”.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Prasad described the Tamil Nadu assembly’s decision as “unfortunate and regrettable” and said “The freedom of the Press is an important Constitutional guarantee......The Press has every right to report and criticise.”

He said he would request the Tamil Nadu Speaker to take back the decision to arrest the journalists.

Breaking his silence since the controversy broke out, the Speaker said in a statement in Chennai that the Chief Minister had “absolutely no part individually in the decision of the legislature and accused the media of “whipping up a totally unwarranted and personal campaign” against her.

Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker K. Kalimuthu today defended the state Assembly decision awarding 15 days’ simple imprisonment to six journalists, including the Editor of ‘The Hindu,’ in a breach of privilege case, saying that the Legislature could not be obstructed by the Press.

Even as the nation-wide protests against the House issuing arrest warrants against the journalists intensified for the second day today, the Speaker said the House was right in passing a resolution (awarding the jail sentence) to protect its independent functioning and to ensure that there was no obstruction to it.

In a four-page statement here, he said Article 194 was specifically enshrined to ensure that a Legislature functioned in a free and independent manner, but the Press enjoyed no such separate rights in the Constitution.

“Article 194 of the Constitution is very clear. A House of Legislature has to be enabled to function in a free and independent manner. Its privileges, powers and immunities have to be protected to secure this,” he said.

Accusing the media of mixing up three separate issues of breach of privilege in a desperate attempt to mislead the public, Mr Kalimuthu said the punishment was solely on account of the breach of privilege and gross contempt of the House committed by ‘The Hindu’ and ‘Murasoli’ and Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had absolutely no part individually in this decision.

The media was unnecessarily whipping up a totally unwarranted editorial campaign against the Chief Minister, he charged.

Mr Kalimuthu charged that a deliberate attempt was being made by those sentenced to mobilise support through political parties and other sections of the media to portray that the breach of privilege and consequent arrest warrants were scripted by Ms Jayalalithaa.

“This itself reflects the desperate attempt by those sentenced to extricate themselves by totally distorting the facts in a crude attempt to mobilise media support and the support of some political parties who would like to fish in troubled waters for their gain,” he said.

The Speaker said Article 194 had set out powers to ensure that members of the House voiced their opinion on issues with absolute freedom.

“This cannot be obstructed by distorted reporting by the media. When the functioning of the House of the legislature in thus obstructed, the privileges of the House as a whole are affected and its very functioning jeopardised,” he said.

He said the Committee of Privileges of the House had detailed deliberations on the issues and both ‘The Hindu’ and ‘Murasoli’ were given adequate opportunities to submit their views.

‘The Hindu’ gave a 16-page written submission in support of their defence. The Committee reached its conclusions and recommendations only after going into the submission point by point in detail, Mr Kalimuthu pointed out.

With political parties, including CPI, RJD and Chief Ministers of several states slamming the Assembly decision, MDMK general secretary Vaiko and eight members of his party, currently lodged in Vellore jail under POTA, went on a 10-hour fast to protest the action.

Vaiko also sent a telegram to Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying, “It is the prime duty of the Indian Government headed by you to ensure protection to the freedom of the press and annul the fascist decision of the state government.” — PTI, UNIBack


TN scribes hold protest fast

Chennai, November 9
Journalists across Tamil Nadu observed fast and held demonstrations to protest against the state Assembly’s order, sentencing six journalists, including the Editor and the Executive Editor of ‘The Hindu,’ to 15-days’ imprisonment in a breach of privilege case, even as leaders of various political parties pledged their solidarity.

As the protests against the state Assembly issuing arrest warrants against the journalists, including ‘Murasoli’ Editor P. Selvam, nephew of DMK President M. Karunanidhi, are growing in all parts of the country, corps from the print and electronic media in Tamil Nadu continued their agitation for the second successive day today.

In the city, about 500 journalists from almost all newspapers, journals and television channels, observed a day’s fast inside the Chennai Press Club as city Police Commissioner K. Vijayakumar denied permission to hold it in front of the State Guest House, the venue, where fast and demonstrations are generally held.

They raised slogans, denouncing Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and Assembly Speaker K. Kalimuthu for trying to arrest the journalists, taking shelter under the Assembly.

Expressing solidarity with the agitating journalists, MDMK general secretary Vaiko, a POTA detenu, observed fast in the Vellore Central Prison.

Various journalists’ organisations in the city had sent a letter to Mr Kalimuthu urging him to revoke the arrest warrant, Madras Union of Journalists president Bhagwan Singh said.

Journalists in Coimbatore also observed a day’s fast, while those in Madurai held protest demonstration. Presspersons in Salem and Tuticorin wore black badges as a mark of protest.

Meanwhile, the city police continued their efforts to execute the arrest warrants for the third day today. Last night, policemen in plain clothes had threatened the security posted at the residence of Mr N. Ram.

The policemen intimidated the security to give his car number and say whether Ms Malini Parthasarathy, Executive Editor, was hiding in his residence, Mr Ram said, addressing fasting journalists here.

Thiruvananthapu-ram: Kerala Chief Minister A.K. Antony today condemned Tamil Nadu Assembly’s order against journalists from ‘The Hindu’ and ‘Murasoli’ and pledged his government’s ‘moral support’ in the fight to uphold media freedom. — UNI, PTIBack

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