INS meet to discuss freedom of press

KOZHIKODE Nov. 10 . The president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), M.P. Veerendrakumar, has said that the INS national executive will meet in Kozhikode on December 11 and 12 to work out the modalities on the future course of action vis-�-vis the freedom of the press and its limitations.

Mr. Veerendrakumar was addressing a seminar on `Independence of press freedom', organised by the Calicut Press Club here today in the backdrop of the challenge posed to the right to expression and information by the Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker's punitive action on six senior journalists of The Hindu and Murasoli.

Expressing solidarity with The Hindu in combating the challenge thrown up by the action of the Privileges Committee of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Mr. Veerendrakumar welcomed the apex court verdict staying the order of the Speaker, but insisted that the matter did not end there.

``The debate has to continue. It will be an ongoing process of resolving the challenges being thrown to the media and the fundamental right of freedom of expression and right to information. These are issues that cannot be confined to close-door meetings,'' he said.

On December 12, an open forum would be held in which besides newspaper owners and journalists, persons from all walks of life would participate in a debate on ways and means to carry forward this momentum, in a concerted manner from the legal and other aspects, he said.

``The move against The Hindu, rated for its excellent journalistic traditions, is the civil society's concern as well. It is a people's problem, a democratic need which needed to be combated,'' Mr. Veerendrakumar said.

He described as ``ridiculous'' the authoritarian culture which was on the upswing in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. He warned of laws such as POTA and MISA which though enacted to curb certain activities could close its tentacles on any member of society. This unjustified assault on The Hindu ought to be viewed in that light.

He said targeting senior journalists as criminals was unpardonable on any count. He demanded that the Speaker withdraw his order. Scrutiny of public figures by the Fourth Estate was a stipulation which cannot be avoided. Was not the heir apparent in Britain being subjected to scrutiny, he asked.

Abdu Samad Samdani, MP, expressed the view that the action against The Hindu had thrown up the challenge of press freedom being lowered to that of a mirage. The fascist face of the Tamil Nadu Government had been exposed. He commended the role of The Hindu in conserving the secular traditions of the country.

The present unprecedented threat to the freedom of the press had created an unhealthy combat between the Legislature and the Fourth Estate.

The chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, M.G.S. Narayanan, the Press Club secretary, N. Rajesh, the Resident Editor Malayala Manorama, K.Aboobacker, the senior journalist, N.P.Chekutty, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) vice-president, T.K. Ramakrishnan, among others spoke.

The seminar passed a resolution demanding that the Tamil Nadu Speaker withdraw his order immediately.

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