Journalists beaten up for ‘negative coverage' of January rampage

The City Civil Court here turned into a battlefield on Friday as groups of lawyers launched a no-holds-barred attack on journalists who had come to cover the proceedings of the special CBI court where Bellary mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy was produced at 11 a.m.

The injured included Sessions Court judge R.B. Budhihal in a lathi-charge, nearly a dozen journalists, policemen as well as lawyers. Property worth several lakhs of rupees, particularly motorbikes and cars, was damaged or destroyed in the melee.

At least 60 people were treated in various government hospitals in the city.

Judicial probe

Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda has ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

One of the first journalists to be hit on Friday was K.N. Kiran, a television reporter. Even as policemen watched, he was attacked by a group of lawyers around 10.30 a.m. when he tried to enter the court hall. “They kept telling me that the beating was for the negative coverage of the January 16 incident [when lawyers had gone on a similar rampage],” Mr. Kiran told The Hindu.

When the CBI court proceedings began, the judge ordered journalists to vacate the room. The lawyers then took it upon themselves to push journalists out of the premises. Things were calm till the court proceedings concluded.

As soon as Mr. Janardhan Reddy was taken away by the CBI police, the lawyers once again demanded that all journalists leave the premises. At this point four women television reporters walked up to the lawyers and tried to reason with them. But this soon degenerated into a shouting match and some of the women were jostled and groped.

Then all hell broke loose and lawyers started attacking the journalists with whatever they could find — stones, flowerpots, helmets, sticks and furniture.

Throughout this the police played a passive role and did not attempt to contain the lawyers even when one projectile struck Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Division) G. Ramesh. It was only when Police Commissioner Jyothi Prakash Mirji came under attack that some constables started a lathi-charge.

Journalists retaliate

The police finally contained the lawyers by surrounding the court complex and launching at least four waves of baton charges. But just when matters began to settle (around 3.30 p.m.), a section of journalists joined some policemen in attacking anybody wearing a white shirt and black trousers. Together, they set fire to several vehicles that bore the sign ‘Advocate.' Some journalists who tried to stop others from resorting to this arson were also thrashed by their own counterparts.

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