Accused in attack he was covering, journalist set to see cases lifted


The BJP government in Karnataka has set in motion a process for withdrawal of cases filed against a television journalist, Naveen Soorinje, arrested and chargesheeted by the Mangalore police for allegedly participating in an assault by a group of over 40 culture vigilantes of the right-wing Hindu Jagaran Vedike on a birthday party in Mangalore on July 28, 2012.

The government has written to the police for their opinion on withdrawal of the cases against Soorinje following an outpouring of protests, including a hunger-strike by journalists in Bangalore on January 5 and a handcuffed strike by civil liberties activists in Mangalore on World Human Rights Day on December 10.

Police sources said they would recommend against withdrawing the cases but added the government would in all probability go ahead. "There has been pressure for a while to withdraw the cases," an official said. "Journalists have met the home minister; there was a hunger-strike too. We will give an opinion against withdrawal and the government will go ahead. That has been the procedure in all instances where cases have been withdrawn."

Soorinje, 28, was arrested on November 7 after he had been named an absconder, accused number 44. Soorinje, of Kasturi 24 news channel, was the only reporter present during the attack at the Morning Mist home stay facility, where 14 students including five girls were celebrating a couple of birthdays. He had received prior information about an impending act of moral policing and, along with a camera crew, recorded the events from the attackers' arrival to the assault, molestation and robbery of the students.

The recordings were later beamed by channels around the country. They carried portents of a similar attack on women at a pub in Mangalore on January 24, 2009. Then, a group of journalists tipped off earlier had recorded the assault of women by the the right-wing Sri Rama Sene, led by Prasad Attavar who a year later was exposed by police investigations as being part of an underworld extortion racket.

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