Journalists belonging to several Malayalam channels have been taken into custody in Mangalore by the police, according to reports by affected media outlets.
According to these channels, their TV crews were reporting from Wenlock Hospital, where the bodies of the people killed in yesterday’s police shooting are kept, when a police team led by a senior official asked everyone without government ID cards to clear the premises.
Asianet News also said that the its reporter has been kept in a police van, along with news crews of several other news organizations.
Asianet News, controlled by Bangalore-based Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar, said that its reporter was able to report on the ground until about 8 am.
The channel aired visuals of a senior police official clearing out media persons by saying that only those with government identification cards will be allowed to stay.
Central government issues ID cards to journalists and often restricts access to central government functions to those with such ID cards. However, reporters working in states like Kerala and Karnataka rarely use such ID cards — which are very cumbersome to obtain — as they don’t need them to cover state government functions.
Asianet News quoted local journalist Anish Balan as saying that local journalists, who too were told to clear the premises, were allowed to walk away from the premises and not taken into custody.
Reports indicated that crews from other neighboring states — such as those from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh — were also taken into custody.
UPDATE: Kerala state police chief Loknath Behera said he has requested his Karnataka compatriot to release the journalists. “Those who are not indulging in violence, and are doing their duty, definitely have the right to do so, and I have placed a request [to Karnataka police to allow them to do so],” he said.
Kerala Minister EP Jayarajan condemned the action by Karnataka Police and urged media to “not step back from exposing injustices”. He, however, did not say whether Kerala government will register a protest with Karnataka government.
Congress leader AK Antony claimed that many journalists belonging to several states have been taken in police custody. “I am calling upon the Karnataka government to immediately release all these journalists,” he said.
The Karnataka police are trying to get the situation on the ground under control in Mangalore after two people were killed in a shooting yesterday.
The protesters are up in arms against a new law that treats undocumented residents in India differently based on their religion. Those who believe in certain religions will be put on the path to citizenship, while those who do not belong to these religions — including atheists and Muslims — will be considered illegal aliens.
The Mangalore protests were part of nationwide demonstrations against the new law.
Except in Uttar Pradesh and Mangalore, demonstrations have been largely peaceful. In both these places, demonstrators set fire to parked vehicles and pelted stones on the police.
Meanwhile, Karnataka tourism and culture minister, CT Ravi, on Wednesday said the BJP was doing what people want. “Whoever opposes this is against democracy and the people’s mandate.”
Ravi said that there was no need to threaten the BJP, and that it was because of people like them that the Godhra riots had happened.