Bhubaneswar: The Press Club of India (PCI) has strongly criticized the attempt of the Odisha Crime Branch to harass journalists in the guise of investigation.
A day after Crime Branch officials pressurised OTV representatives to reveal the source of a report in connection with the Kunduli gang rape and suicide case, PCI President Gautam Lahiri said the Supreme Court has made it clear that media cannot be forced to disclose sources.
"If the government is not pleased with any news it cannot attack media. We and the national media are concerned about the attacks on OTV and the Odisha government should take steps to address it. If the situation continues all the journalists of Delhi along with the local journalists will join forces against the Odisha government which could spell trouble," said Lahiri.
President of Odisha Union of Journalists, Prasanna Mohanty also condemned the move of the Crime Branch. "The government has turned vindictive as was the case in the 1980s when raids were conducted on media houses to control them. Seems like a particular media house OTV is being targeted. It should not mean all other media houses should become sycophants of the government,” said Mohanty.
On the other hand former Odisha DGP Sanjeev Marik said, "Journalists have the independence to not divulge their source but if police wants to nab a criminal they have to take such a step. It is not necessary to answer all questions. If you don't have any information, you can say no."
"Journalists cannot be forced to divulge their sources. But there is no issue if police wants their support for conducting investigation in a better way," said another former Odisha DGP, SN Tiwari.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan took to Twitter to condemn Crime Branch’s move and stated that in a democracy there is freedom for investigative journalism. Harassing journalists who have exposed the truth rather than catching the culprits is undemocratic.
The Kunduli victim had brought accusations in the name of Odisha DGP before committing suicide and her family has also alleged senior officials are trying to suppress the matter, he added.
It was also alleged that police has destroyed her suicide note, stated Pradhan adding further that the Crime Branch should deliver justice to the victim instead of nurturing vengeful feelings against the concerned journalists.
On January 25, OTV telecasted a report of the State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFSL) which revealed traces of semen of two persons on the clothes of the Kunduli gang rape victim, who later had committed suicide on January 22, 2018.
The news report of OTV put the Crime Branch in the dock as the investigating agency in its report submitted to the National Human Rights Commission had mentioned that ‘no foreign articles’ were found on victim’s clothes.
The SFSL later labeled the report shown by OTV as a ‘preliminary inter-divisional report’ and said that it was not ‘the final report.’ The Police DG also ordered a probe into how the said report came out of the lab.
Two months later yesterday, to cooperate in the investigation after getting a summon from the Crime Branch, OTV representatives reached the investigating agency’s Bhubaneswar-based office only to find the officials asking out of context questions in a bid to harass.
Moreover, the probe agency reportedly tried to elicit information on the day-to-day working of OTV, interfering in the freedom of a news channel.