Freedom of Press is Severely Threatened in Orissa: MUFP

A meeting of Bhubaneswar based mediapersons, conveyed by Media Unity for Freedom of Press, after deep deliberations at the Lohia Bhawan , Bhubaneswar in the evening of 28 April 2010, unanimously determined that the Freedom of Press is severely threatened in Orissa. While exploring remedies, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted.

Resolution No. 1

This meeting condemns the bloody attack on mediapersons on duty covering plight of students of privately run Silicon Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar. It appreciates the police action in arresting some of the spotted miscreants comprising management and staff of this institute; but simultaneously it puts on record that the police is yet to proceed in the right track, as all the arrested miscreants are enlarged on bail in absence of police ability to forward the case details promptly to the court of hearing and the body of the student that succumbed allegedly to food poisoning has been disposed off sans post-mortem and other medico-legally studies.

This meeting takes serious note of the advertisement of OPECA in various newspapers designed to denigrate the Press. OPECA advertisement goes on to say that “allegation against the Directors and employees of Silicon Institute of Technology for allegedly manhandling the media is absolutely false and fabricated”. When in subsequent advertisement the OPECA admitted the offense and offered unconditional apology, a team of its members have disowned it the next day and have openly tried to influence the Police Commissioner to drop the charges under 307 IPC under which prima-facie the attackers were booked. This meeting condemns the first ad. Of OPECA as blatant lie and resolves that the state government be called upon to appeal against the grant of bail to the miscreants specifically as their collective body has been trying to influence the Police to drop the charges under 307. It is clear that the miscreants were using their group to tamper with normal process of law by trying to influence the police commissioner to drop the charges of attempt to murder and if they are allowed to stay on bail, it cannot be said for sure that they will not try to tamper with evidences. Hence this meeting call upon the Government to go instantly on appeal against the bail order as well as to take action against the in-charge police authority that have helped the miscreants be enlarged on bail by not submitting the CD in time.

Taking into consideration the above scenario vis-à-vis the exhibition of cold silence by the Silicon College authorities over the sordid development this meeting hold that the Silicon College perpetrated the murderous attack on the media persons to obliterate the proofs of havoc they have played on the lives of students as well as to intimidate the Press and therefore, calls upon the Government to take exemplary action against SIT as a measure to discipline the errant traders of techno-education and to restore professional climate for the Press.

To bring the truth to light, this meeting of MUFP urges upon the Chief Minister to institute a time bound Judicial Commission of Enquiry under the Commission of Enquiry Act. to be headed by a Retired High Court Judge to probe into the incidents that lead to murderous attack on the media persons inside the Silicon Institute of Technology , after they went there to cover the alleged death of a student due to food poisoning, functioning of the SIT and all technical institutions who are members of OPECA, where neither the students nor the media persons are safe. The Commission may kindly probe into the cause of the sudden death of the student, role of police for not registering an Unnatural Death Case and handing over the body to the parents without ascertaining the cause of death and allowing the body for cremation. It may also probe into the role of the police in not filing the CD before the Court in time, role of the Public Prosecutor and circumstances under which all the ten accused persons were bailed out in absence of the Case Diary.

Resolution No.2

The MUFP expressed its grave concern over murderous attack on Mr. Amulya Pani by anti socials, while on duty. Though he has named the assaulters in his F.I.R. before the police so far the Kalinga Nagar police have not arrested the assaulters because of their high political connections.

This meeting of MUFP therefore urges upon the Chief Minister of Orissa to intervene in the matter and ensure arrest of the assaulters within a week and to take exemplary actions against the police officials and politicians for protecting the assaulters.

Resolution No. 3

This instance of bloody attack on media persons calls for immediate legislation against any such attack in future. Hence it is resolved that the government be moved to promulgate an ordinance pending framing of a law on physical protection of media persons, the nomenclature of which should be something like ‘Physical and Intellectual Protection of Media persons Act’ with provision of severe punishment. As such, this meeting calls upon the government to frame and promulgate an Ordinance styled as ‘physical and intellectual protection of media persons’ Order, 2010’ to be turned into an assize by the Assembly.

Resolution No. 4

It was shocking to note that the Lokpal of Orissa has been addressed by the Secretary of the Public Grievances & PA department to initiate appropriate action as per Section 15 (5) of Orissa Lokpal and Loayukta Act 1995 against journalists and media organizations that according to him have violated Section 15(4) of the said Act by publishing recommendations of the Lokpal in cases against Vedanta. Even as this meeting wants to make it clear that with evolution of peoples’ right to information, any restriction on press coverage of matters unrelated to defense privilege has become redundant; it is of the considered opinion that the concerned Secretary has no locus standi under the said Act to post such a notice to the Lokpal.

Hence it is resolved that the Secretary, PG&PA department has acted without authority in posting the notice against Press to the Lokpal and has, by seeking action “so as to prevent” the Press from publishing the Lokapal’s recommendations “in future”, has resorted to a criminal act of intimidation against the media persons/houses.
It is therefore further resolved that the role of the Secretary of the PG&PA department in the instant case is condemnable and therefore his action is condemned as anti-people, anti-Press and pro-dubious_industrial_operators. This meeting, on this ground, calls upon the State Government to take exemplary action against the PG&PA Secretary in order to assure that gagging of freedom of Press is not the job of this Government.

It was decided to submit these Resolutions to the Chief Minister in a Memorandum.

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