In India, newspaper employee attacked, editions torched

February 8, 2013, New York–Individuals alleged to be part of a right-wing Hindu group attacked an employee of the Mangalore-based Karavali Ale daily on Wednesday, confiscated and torched copies of the paper’s editions on Thursday, and threatened news vendors, according to news reports and the head of the media group that owns the paper. The paper had published a front page story linking the Hindu group to drug trafficking, news reports said.

“Authorities in Mangalore must investigate this cowardly attack on Karavali Ale staff and bring those responsible to justice swiftly,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Political groups must not be allowed to threaten independent news outlets with impunity.”

At least 12 to 15 assailants attacked Harish Putran, senior office assistant at the daily Karavali Ale, with iron rods as he left the office and headed to a local bus stop, according to B.V. Seetaram, editor-in-chief of the media group Chitra Publications, which publishes the Kannada-language paper. Seetaram told CPJ that Putran was admitted to a local hospital with injuries to his head, chest, hands, and back.

Seetaram told CPJ that Putran had identified his assailants as members of a right-wing Hindu group called Hindu Jagran Vedike, which is affiliated with the ruling Bhartiya Janata party in the state. He said he believed the attackers were trying to warn his publication about reporting critically about the group. Seetaram said the group had been angered by a critical front page story that appeared in the February 6 issue of Karavali Ale that alleged the group’s involvement in drug trafficking in the region.

Police told local journalists that the day after the attack on Putran, members of Hindu Jagran Vedike confiscated copies of Karavali Ale from street vendors across Mangalore, according to news reports and Seetaram. The editor also told CPJ that the assailants set fire to editions of the paper and have warned local vendors not to sell copies of the papers.

Seetaram said Karavali Ale had filed a complaint with the police.

Satyajith, a local leader of the Hindu Jagran Vedike, said that members of his group were angry that the group had been linked to drug trafficking, according to Karavali Ale. The paper cited the leader as saying that his colleagues’ actions were in response to the critical report.

CPJ has documented previous instances of harassment against Karavali Ale and other local newspapers in Mangalore. In 2009, police arrested Seetaram and his wife, Rohini, director of Chitra Publications, on charges of offending a religious group. Seetaram said the arrests were part of campaign against the paper for its reports criticizing local authorities.

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