A district reporter with Kasturi Newz 24, Mr. Soorinje was arrested on November 7 and has remained in judicial custody ever since.

A delegation of news editors and senior journalists from a cross-section of print and television media met Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar here on Tuesday to express their concern over the imprisonment of Mangalore-based television journalist Naveen Soorinje.

Mr. Soorinje, who reported on the July 28 homestay attack in Mangalore, was listed as a co-accused in the case by the Mangalore police. A district reporter with Kasturi Newz 24, Mr. Soorinje was arrested on November 7 and has remained in judicial custody ever since.

In a memorandum submitted to Mr. Shettar, the delegation pointed out that it was evidence gathered by Mr. Soorinje and his team that helped the State government bring the culprits to book.

“It therefore came as a shock,” said the memorandum, “that instead of being listed as a witness, he was made an accused and charged under the very same sections of the Indian Penal Code as the attackers.” They urged the Chief Minister to immediately drop all charges against Mr. Soorinje.

The charge-sheet, filed by the Mangalore police against Mr. Soorinje on September 20, invoked Sections of the IPC relating to offenses such as “rioting with deadly weapons”, “unlawful assembly”, “criminal conspiracy”, and “using criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty”.

‘Absolutely bizarre’

“Is a camera a lethal weapon?” asked Prajavani assistant editor Dinesh Amin Mattu during the interaction. “When a journalist goes to cover a crime, how can he be accused of being part of an unlawful assembly?” said TV-9 political editor Lakshman Hoogar. Times Now bureau chief Dhanya Rajendran said, “The victim on whose complaint the Mangalore police booked Naveen has gone on record saying that he was made to sign a blank sheet of paper by the police.”

While conceding that journalists are often hard-pressed to define their ethical boundaries during a breaking news situation, NDTV resident editor Maya Sharma said, “The charges against Mr. Soorinje, though, are absolutely bizarre.” Yasir Mushtaq from IBN-7 described Mr. Soorinje’s arrest as an affront to the freedom of the press.

Intervention sought

Seeking a re-examination of the evidence presented by the Mangalore police, the delegation sought Mr. Shettar’s intervention to ensure that the State government does not challenge his bail application when it comes up before the High Court.