Delhi journalists stage protest rally

Journalists raising slogans against the action of the Tamil Nadu Government in front of the Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on Monday. — Photo: S. Subramanium

Journalists raising slogans against the action of the Tamil Nadu Government in front of the Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on Monday. — Photo: S. Subramanium  

NEW DELHI NOV. 10. Even as the Supreme Court today stayed the Tamil Nadu Assembly's breach of privilege resolution against the Editors and journalists of The Hindu and the Editor of Murasoli, a large number of journalists demonstrated outside the Tamil Nadu House here this afternoon protesting against the "unprovoked and unjustifiable attempt to curb the freedom of expression.''

Carrying placards and banners that described the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly as an attack on the freedom of the press, journalists in large numbers gathered in front of the Tamil Nadu House raising slogans such as "Revoke Action Against Journalists: Restore Press Freedom," they called upon the Tamil Nadu Assembly to repeal its decision against the journalists.

The police tried to stop the journalists from proceeding, but the demonstrators broke the barricades at two places and reached the Tamil Nadu House gate raising slogans against the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa. Besides lending support to the demonstration, a large number of journalists' unions signed a memorandum submitted to the Tamil Nadu Governor, through the Resident Commissioner. They included the National Union of Journalists, the Indian Women's Press Corps, the Press Club of India, the Indian Journalists Union, the Press Association, the Editor's Guild and the Delhi Journalists Association.

Those who participated in the demonstration included Kuldip Nayar; the Bureau Chief of The Hindu, Harish Khare, the Consulting Editor of The Hindu; K.K. Katyal, Member of Parliament Balbir Punj; the president of the National Union of Journalists, Nitish Chakravarty, the president of the Press Club of India, Prakash Patra, and the PCI secretary-general, Sanjeev Acharya.

Arguing that it was time for a healthy and responsible debate on how to harmonise the privileges of the legislature and the rights of the media, the memorandum said that in this democratic age no institution could claim unlimited authority and powers. "The Tamil Nadu Assembly has arrogated to itself extraordinary powers to punish the journalists for criticising members of the Assembly. This is untenable and, in our view, an unconstitutional interpretation of the scope of the privileges. This amounts to an abuse of privilege,'' the memorandum said.

Calling on the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly to reconsider and rescind its resolution of November 7, the memorandum said it was time the privileges of the Members of the Legislative Assemblies and Parliament was codified. The memorandum also called upon the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to immediately use her influence to persuade her party to drop the trumped-up charges against the journalists.

Stern action was demanded against the police officials responsible for intercepting in Bangalore the car carrying senior journalists of The Hindu and intimidating in Chennai the family members of some. The unauthorised dispatching of police officials to another State and their harassment of the journalists in Bangalore appears to be part of the vendetta unleashed by the Tamil Nadu Government. "We urge you to seriously view this violation of justice and seek an explanation from the authorities concerned,'' the memorandum read.

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