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Monday, Nov 10, 2003

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Report will be sent to Home Ministry: N. Ram

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`Something good would come of all this. The system will resolve this issue.'

Mr M.P. Veerendrakumar, INS President, PTI Chairman and MD, Mathrubhumi group of publications (third from right), ending the one-day fast by journalists in Chennai on Sunday to protest the Tamil Nadu Assembly's action against senior journalists of The Hindu and Murasoli. The CITU All India General Secretary, Mr W.R. Varadarajan (second from right), and Mr N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, along with other senior journalists, look on. — Shaju John

Chennai , Nov. 9

LEADING journalists, political leaders, human rights activists and trade union leaders expressed their outrage at the jail sentence awarded by the Tamil Nadu Assembly to the editors and other journalists of the dailies, The Hindu and Murasoli.

They reacted with shock and dismay over what they described as the high handedness of the police, who with slight regard or humane consideration barged into the houses and offices of the journalists.

Mr N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, said that a report of the incidents consequent to the order passed by the Assembly would be sent to the Union Home Ministry.

He was confident, that "something good would come of all this. The system will resolve this issue,'' which is a challenge to the freedom of press and an affront to democracy, he said.

The State Government is indulging in an act of "dangerous madness" and the police were resorting to "clownish acts", he said. Last night in Bangalore, the car in which he and Mr N. Murali, Joint Managing Director of The Hindu, and other family members were travelling, was intercepted by men in plain clothes and they were questioned.

Those who stopped the car were not even aware of the identities of the people they were supposed to be looking for. He and the others were on their way to a hotel after participating in the 125th anniversary celebrations of the newspaper. "Luckily, we were able to note down the number of the car that intercepted us. They had passed on this number to the Bangalore police who have taken serious notice of the incident," he said.

Police had also visited their residences here and intimidated their employees, he said.

These developments have been viewed with concern by national leaders who have got in touch with him and have expressed solidarity with journalists and extended support to the journalists' fight for human rights.

The Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr Ravishankar Prasad, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, the Congress leader, Ms Sonia Gandhi, were among those who have expressed deep concern, he said.

Ms Nirmala Lakshman, Joint Editor, The Hindu, thanked the journalists for the solidarity expressed. The issue involved not just The Hindu but the concept of democracy, and fundamental freedom.

"The State Government should come to its senses. It has resorted to bullying and terror tactics,'' she said.

The former DMK Minister, Mr Arcot Veerasamy, viewed the Assembly's order as a challenge to the freedom of press and not just an action against a single newspaper. Those in authority and the police have abused their powers, he said.

Mr Aladi Aruna, a former DMK Minister, said that the Chief Minister was setting an unhealthy example. People may lose faith in the federal system. Ms J. Jayalalithaa has to take steps to revoke the order.

Congress leaders, Mr G.K. Vasan, Mr E.V.K.S. Elangovan and Mr Peter Alphonse, the BJP representative, Mr Kamakshi Naidu, and the CPI representative, Mr A.N. Gopu, addressed the reporters and expressed their solidarity.

The State Government was abusing its powers and adopting a vindictive attitude, Mr Vasan said.

Leaders from the CITU, traders organisations, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers' Associations addressed the gathering and expressed support.

A host of reporters and senior journalists urged the Government to exhibit more tolerance to criticism. They urged the Assembly to revoke the order punishing journalists for doing their duty.

Hundreds of journalists participated in the fast organised by the Madras Union of Journalists, the Chennai Press Club, Journalists' Action Group and the Network of Women in Media, Chennai.

The protest was held at the Chennai Press Club since the authorities refused to grant permission to hold the meeting opposite the State Guest House, which is the usual venue for such gatherings.

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