SFI activists barge into Asianet office: Another example of attack on media, say journalists’ bodies

NEW DELHI, 5 Mar: A day after a group of SFI activists allegedly barged into the Kochi office of Asianet News and intimidated channel staff over a news report, journalists’ bodies condemned the incident and called it yet another example of growing attacks against media and scribes.
Barging into media offices is “illegal” and should be considered as “an attack on press freedom,” the Press Club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists said in a joint statement.
“We expect the Kerala government to take strict action against those who attacked Asianet,” they said.
A group of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists allegedly trespassed into the office of Malayalam news channel Asianet News in Kochi on Friday and intimidated the staff over a report about the sexual assault of a girl, according to Kerala Police.
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.
Condemning the incident, the journalists’ bodies said, “We protest the attack on the TV channel Asianet News office in Kochi by the activists of the Students’ Federation of India.”
“This is yet another example of the growing attacks against media organisations and journalists in the country,” the said.
The journalists’ bodies said that Asianet News had used “a mock video” to bring out the issue of drug and sexual abuse of a young girl in Kerala.
“Stamping such a programme as fake news suggests ignorance of the professional ways used by news organisations to protect the identity of victims of sexual assault,” they said, adding that “there are methods and platforms to raise complaints against any news item in a legal manner.”
The journalists’ bodies noted that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear in the assembly that the police are looking into a complaint against the news report in question.
“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,” they said.
“We condemn the attempts by certain political outfits, organisations and social media influencers in Kerala to instill media phobia by labelling all news and views as fake if they disagree with it,” they said, adding that “demonising or undermining the media often protects vested interests.” (PTI)