Editors' Guild Condemns Karnataka Assembly's Jail order For Journalists

The Karnataka assembly sentenced two reporters to a year in jail and a fine of Rs 10,000 for writing allegedly defamatory articles on Speaker KB Koliwad and a few other lawmakers. The Editors' Guild of India said it was a violation of freedom of speech and the freedom of the press

 Share
EMAIL
PRINT
COMMENTS
Editors' Guild Condemns Karnataka Assembly's Jail order For Journalists

The 2 journalists have been given a year's jail term and a fine by the Karnataka assembly.


Bengaluru:  The Editors' Guild of India has condemned the Karnataka Assembly's order to arrest and fine two journalists working with Kannada dailies for allegedly writing defamatory articles that were published two years ago. The journalists, Ravi Belagare and Anil Raj of Yelahanka, were given a year in jail and a fine of Rs 10,000 in a unanimous resolution - a first in the state's history. The alleged defamatory articles were about the Speaker and a few lawmakers, one of whom is a member of the Privileges Committee which recommended the punishment.

Asking the assembly to withdraw the order, the Guild said it was "gross misuse of the powers and privileges" of legislature. The decision, it said, also violates "the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and the Freedom of the Press".

While the legislature can punish anyone for breach of privileges, what constitutes a "breach" and what punishments can be given, is not clearly defined. The journalists can appeal to the courts, but the courts are usually reluctant to take a call on when the legislature exercises its power.

Pointing out the lack of code on breach of privileges, the Guild said, "The right to try and sentence journalists for defamation is vested with the courts of law and the Karnataka Legislative Assembly cannot and should not misuse its powers and privileges to conduct a trial and sentence any member of the press for libel".

The Congress government of Karnataka has distanced itself from the controversy. "The government has no role to play in this. There was a complaint by an MLA - the Speaker had referred it a legislature committee," the state's law minister TB Jayachandran has said. The Speaker K B Koliwad belongs to the Congress.

Police sources, who earlier said they have to seek a legal clarification, now say they would carry out the assembly's order. Neither journalist has been arrested yet. The police say Anil Raj cannot be traced. Ravi Belagere is in a hospital in Dharwad and police say they will not arrest him until he is discharged.

In a video message, Mr Belagere said he could go to the court against the assembly's order. "This government only has one more year to go. Their life is over. Why do you hold me responsible for anything? This is very serious. I am against it. I will be against the system," he said.  

On Friday, Amnesty International issued a statement criticising the assembly's move. "Journalists must have the freedom to write critical articles. If individuals feel that their reputations have been affected, they can take recourse to civil defamation remedies in court," the statement read.


Get Breaking news, live coverage, and Latest News from India and around the world on NDTV.com. Catch all the Live TV action on NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.

NDTV Beeps - your daily newsletter

................................ Advertisement ................................

................................ Advertisement ................................

................................ Advertisement ................................