An eight-member squad led by Assistant Commissioner of Police P.V. Suresh (District Crime Branch) inspected the regional office of Asianet News channel here on Sunday in connection with the investigation into the telecast of an alleged “fake” interview of a teenage girl from north Kerala, who was presented as a victim of drug and sexual assault.
The search that went on for hours, interrupting functioning of the reporting team, followed a case registered against the news channel at the Vellayil police station under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Indian Penal Code. The channel’s Executive Editor Sindhu Sooryakumar, Resident Editor Shajahan, and reporter Noufal Bin Yusaf are among those booked on the charges of making false documents and hatching criminal conspiracy.
The police squad accompanied by IT experts scanned almost all files and folders kept at the channel’s studio. Two senior Revenue Department officers were also present to oversee the legal procedures. Though the editing works at the news studio were interrupted drawing wide protest, the channel continued to air the live visuals of the checking till the end.
The district-level functionaries of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) alleged that the police action was quite suspicious and it challenged the freedom of media in a fascist way. KUWJ District president M. Firos Khan and Secretary P.S. Ragesh said the police tried to create a scary atmosphere around the 24x7 news channel with vengeance and the reasons behind such a haste should be probed.
The journalists who were present at the spot during the search said the attempts to open all media files from computers other than the videos related to the alleged controversy were quite a suspicious move. They also alleged that the long hours of check hit the comfortable functioning of the newsroom.
Meanwhile, police sources said the checking was part of the routine procedures initiated to recover the suspected video footage related to the complaint filed by P.V. Anvar, MLA. They also claimed that there were no attempts to interrupt the live telecasting of the whole legal procedures by the channel as part of ensuring their freedom.