Upholding Freedom of Expression

Last week, 33 organizations across India issued the following statement in support of Tehelka reporter Shahina KK. She faces charges from the Karnataka Police under IPC 506 for intimidating witnesses. Her expose in The Tehelka showed how the police case against Abdul Nasar Madani, head of the People's Democratic Front (PDP), accused in 2008 Bengaluru blasts, was fragile and based on non-existent and false testimonies. Read more
We the following organizations express our strong concern about the charges framed by Karnataka police against journalist Shahina KK for her investigative report on the Bangalore bomb blast case. Her recent article which showed that witnesses in the Bangalore blast case were fragile, false and forced has led her to be implicated under charges of IPC 506 which can lead to seven years of imprisonment.

The accusation of the Karnataka police is that she 'intimidated the key witnesses' in the Bangalore bomb blast case during the course of her article. The accusations of the police were also carried by the local news papers as a "suspicious" visit by a “group of Muslims” to the place. The newspapers said that police were not sure about the identity of the woman, though she had shown a Tehelka identity card!

Describing the incident in the article Shahina has pointed out that on her way to meet the witnesses, she and her colleagues were tailed by the police and received calls from the circle inspector, who enquired if Shahina was a terrorist!

The case is not against her as an individual but it is a warning to the entire media community, women and minorities. We strongly condemn the attitude of the police in framing false charges against a reputed journalist in a nationally renowned magazine. We are aware that if the police can go to that extent, what the status of ordinary members of the minority community could be. We also condemn the tradition of some of the members of the press to repeat the false information of the police, which has very deep communal implications. We are shocked at the growing human rights violations in the name of tackling terrorism. Above all, the problems faced by Shahina are also a grave threat to freedom of expression and the incidents also warn us about the fascistic designs of the Sangh Parivar controlled Karnataka Government.

We strongly urge the Karnataka Government to drop the charges against Shahina and create a harmonious environment for both freedom of expression as well as for the minorities.

We appeal to all secular and democratic forces to express support for all similar victims of false charges faced by those who are regularly branded and charged due to the expression of the misuse of powers of the State machinery.

Endorsing organizations:1. All india Secular Forum
2. People's Union for Civil Liberties
3. Keraleeyam Magazine, Thrissur
4. Padabhedam Magazine, Calicut
6. Kerala Tourism Watch
7. South Indian Cell for Human Rights Education & Monitoring (SICHREM), Bangalore
8. ViBGYOR Film Collective, Thrissur
9. Common Concerns, Orissa
10. Moving Republic, Bangalore
11. Visual Search, Bangalore
12. New Socialist Alternative, Bangalore
13. Pedestrian Pictures
14. Kabani- The Other Direction
15. Orissa Concerns.net
16. Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike
17. Vettiver Collective, Chennai
18. Campaign for Justice and Peace-Tamil Nadu
19. Saheli, Delhi
20. South Asia Citizens Web (sacw.net)
21. Centre for Harmony and Peace, Varanasi
22. Dalit Mukti Morcha Chhattisgarh
23. Nava Janadhipthya Prasthanam (NDM)
24. Rural Education for Development Society, Tumkur
25. Booshakthi Vedike, Karnataka
26. Dalit Panchayat Movement, Tumkur District
27. Delhi Forum
28. Programme For Social Action
29. Asian Media Forum
30. Infochange Social Media, Pune
31. National Coailation for Social Watch, Delhi
32. Context India, Bangalore
33. Manasi Swasthya Sansthan,Indore

Pushpa Achanta
(The author is a freelance writer, a Fellow of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau, and a community volunteer based in Bangalore, India)