The editor of Tamil daily ‘Dina Bhoomi' S. Manimaran, his son M. Rameshkumar of K.K. Nagar here and M. Muthiah of Keelayur were arrested on Wednesday for publishing news on granite quarries in the region.
The three were produced before a magistrate and remanded to judicial custody.
Based on a complaint from Madurai Granite Quarry Owners' Association president P. Periasami, the Inspector-General of Police (South Zone) S. S. Krishnamoorthy ordered an investigation.
The complainant had alleged that the newspaper indulged in publishing a series of news items, which were “false and misleading,” about the granite quarry business in the region. The owners of the newspaper “demanded huge sums” for not publishing the news items, following which Rs. 5 lakh was given. However, the newspaper threatened to tarnish the image of granite quarry owners and pasted posters every day causing “irreparable damage.” This caused panic among the public residing in and around Melur and there was apprehension in many villages about the quarry operators, he had stated in the complaint.
The Tallakulam police arrested Mr. Manimaran from his residence in the early hours and after registering a case under the Indian Penal Code Sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 384 (extortion), 387 (causing fear of death), 294 b (obscene acts in public), 506 (1) criminal intimidation and 392 read with 511 (robbery and attempt to commit criminal offence) against the trio, they were produced before the Judicial Magistrate. Further investigation is on.
‘Attack on media'
The Madurai Reporters' Guild has condemned the arrest of Mr. Manimaran.
In a press release, Guild secretary R. Paneerselvam said the media had been constantly attacked by people who were exposed in public for their illegal acts in the recent past.
‘Dina Bhoomi' had exposed revenue loss to the exchequer to the tune of several crores by some granite quarry operators in Madurai. The police had registered cases such as robbery and extortion against the newspaper editor. This was nothing but an act of threat for exposing the facts. He demanded the government intervene and release Mr. Manimaran immediately.
Chennai correspondent writes:
Journalist organisations demanded the immediate release of Mr. Manimaran and the others. “It is anti-democratic to file criminal cases against journalists for writing against the government. It is a challenge to democracy,” said Bharathi Tamilan, joint secretary of the Press Club.
Chennai Union of Journalists president V. Anbazhagan said the arrest was aimed at intimidating the media.
Tamil Nadu Union of Journalists president T.S. Ravindra Doss said his organisation would hold a demonstration on Thursday near Press Club to condemn the arrest.
BJP State president Pon. Radhakrishnan said if the intention of the State government was to take legal action against ‘Dina Bhoomi editor it should not have resorted to midnight arrest.
“The government could have taken action against him through courts if it had found anything objectionable in his writing,” he said, adding that the arrest was condemnable. Mr. Radhakrishnan said the DMK government was behaving like the Congress during the days of Emergency. “It seems as if the DMK had forgotten the problems it faced during the Emergency period,” he said.