Almost three months after the tussle between various lawyers associations and journalists first hit the headlines, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today took a stand on the issue, urging lawyers to let the media do their job.
“The lawyers should realize that they do wrong in blocking journalists from accessing the court premises,” Vijayan said in a statement, two weeks after International Press Institute expressed its concern at the continued blockade of mediapersons by lawyers’ associations.
In a letter, the institution sought the intervention of the Kerala High Court Chief Justice in the matter.
Vijayan had been avoiding taking a stand on the issue so far, preferring to wait it out and let the two sides settle the matter.
However, with the blockade nearing three months, the Chief Minister seems to have decided enough is enough.
“The right of mediapersons to report on events inside the courtroom cannot be denied.. Such reports making international headlines can mar the image of the state itself,” Vijayan said today.
“Kerala is a state where the media is free to do their job without any fear and with full freedom,” he added.
The fight is related to what advocates call ‘biased’ and ‘sensationalist’ reporting by Kerala’s TV channels and newspapers.
Journalists, on their part, allege that lawyers are trying to dictate the terms and tone of coverage of events to their benefit and that of their clients.
Things got to a head in July when certain news outlets reported a story that a lawyer, who was empaneled as a government pleader, tried to molest a woman.
The report was followed by angry lawyers locking up mediarooms and throwing stones and bottles at journalists inside the High Court premises in Kochi. Journalists, who were vastly outnumbered by the lawyers, sustained injuries, including some to the head.
Since then, an unofficial blockade of media persons from the inner regions of the court complex has been in place.