The Press Council of India has indicted the Andhra Pradesh police for imposing restrictions on the media during Osmania students' agitation on February 14 and 15 in Hyderabad and for assaulting journalists.

In its report on the complaint of the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists, the PCI referred to complaints from television channels that wires of OB vans of several news channels were cut, and said: “The action of the police amounts to pre-censorship of news, which is unconstitutional and undemocratic.”

Hearing on State appeal

A copy of the report was filed on Friday in the Supreme Court, which is to take up for hearing on April 26 an appeal filed by the State against the Andhra Pradesh High Court order questioning deployment of central paramilitary forces on the Osmania University campus.

The report said: “When approached, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Praveen Kumar told the representatives of the electronic media that he decided to ban the entry of electronic media vehicles to prevent broadcasting of news from the campus live. His statement and actions go to prove that the police have decided to impose pre-censorship on the media.”

The PCI said: “We understand the concerns of the law enforcing machinery in surcharged situations. But we cannot accept a situation where the police stifle the voice of the media under the guise of concerns of law and orders. Any form of pre-censorship is illegal and unconstitutional. The DIG, who prevented the [entry of] electronic media vehicles into the campus, has by his actions violated the fundamental right of free expression.”

The PCI, in its recommendation sent to the Chief Secretary, wanted disciplinary action initiated against three IPS officers — S.R. Anjaneyulu, Joint Commissioner; Mahesh Chandra Laddha, DCP; and K. Ramachandra, ACP — and B. Anjaiah, Station House Officer, and also identify the other police personnel responsible for beating up journalists and damaging their equipment and vehicles. It recommended that these four officers be not given postings and directed the police to take immediate action on the complaints filed by journalists.

The PCI asked the State government to compensate the damage to the equipment and vehicles, and to take cognisance of the fact that the media were duty-bound to cover any event and any attempt to prevent such act would be seen as a move to curb their freedom. It asked the State to place the report in the Assembly.

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