“I openly and passionately condemn the arrest of [journalist] Naveen Soorinje in connection with the July 28 homestay attack in Mangalore,” noted lawyer R. Nitin has said. He was speaking at the Fifth Open Media Matters seminar organised by Media Watch Bengaluru on Thursday to discuss the Mangalore police’s arrest of Mr. Soorinje, the TV reporter who documented the attack.

He said that the charges against Mr. Soorinje such as carrying lethal weapons and inciting violence were “pure gibberish”. He said that at a time when the State and the police act maliciously, the role of the judiciary become critical. Stating that the courts must retain their independence in the face of misleading submissions by State agencies, he said, “I hope the High Court will show the way.”

K.S. Dakshinamurthy, veteran journalist and editorial consultant with The Hindu , said, “Mr. Soorinje’s case is symptomatic of a State’s intolerance toward dissent and critical reportage. At a time when the State has more and more to hide such exposes [of government failure] are punished in a blatant manner.” Stating that the threats faced by investigative journalists in Karnataka is alarming, he said, “Earlier one would hear of such things in the [Democratic Republic of] Congo.”

“If the trend continues investigative journalists will have to work underground or under pseudonyms,” he said. Mr. Dakshinamurthy also blamed sections of the media for the present state of affairs. “There has been a serious dilution of serious news and journalism standards. The credibility of the media is at an all time low. This situation has unfortunately played into the hands of those who want to muzzle the media.”

Independent journalist Vasanti Hariprakash said, “Somebody out there was trying to do his duty and alert the world about a grave atrocity. Is this the reward that he gets?” She also noted that 232 journalists have been arrested worldwide in the last one year alone.She also said that all State and national TV channels as well as media outlets made millions by telecasting the visuals of the homestay attack shot by Mr. Soorinje’s team. “But the news of his arrest did not get any attention from them as it was not good for TRPs,” she said.

More In: KARNATAKA | NATIONAL