Members of the Udupi District Union of Working Journalists’ Association staged a dharna in front of the Clock Tower near the Service Bus Stand here on Thursday to protest against the arrest of Naveen Soorinje, a reporter with the Kannada news channel Kasturi News 24.

Soorinje was arrested on November 7 in Mangalore in connection with the assault by a group of persons on college students celebrating a birthday party at “Morning Mist” boarding home at Padil in Mangalore.

Association president Kiran Manjanbail said that the arrest of Soorinje was a direct assault on the freedom of the press. “We condemn the arrest,” he said. The journalists shouted slogans.

Later, in a memorandum submitted to Deputy Superintendent of Police Prabhudev Mane, the association said that the arrest had raised questions such as how should a reporter go about his work, whether the reporter should inform the police about an incident first or whether he should do his job of reporting.

When these issues were still being debated, it was not right on the part of the police to have arrested Soorinje, he said.

This had to be considered as an attack on the freedom of the press, he said. There were now constant attacks on mediapersons and cases were being slapped on them. The government should create a condition conducive for the working of the press, he added.

Meanwhile, the Udupi district unit of Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike (KKSV) has slammed the Mangalore police for arresting Soorinje.

In a press release here on Thursday, vedike district unit president G. Rajashekhar alleged that Soorinje’s arrest was an attempt by the State government to muzzle the press.

If the government and the police department had any respect for the freedom of the press, they should immediately release Soorinje and take action against those who had assaulted the college students at “Morning Mist”.

The police department, which could not control the communal forces, had now arrested the journalist to save its own face.

The journalist had done his job, but the police had failed to do its duty. “Can the journalist be held responsible for the failure of the police?” Mr. Rajashekar asked.