The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplores the arrest of the news editor of a Tamil daily in India after his newspaper published an article containing offensive information about several prominent figures in the Tamil film industry.
B. Lenin, of Dinamalar, was arrested in Chennai in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu reportedly for publishing on October 4 a purported statement by a part-time Tamil actor who had earlier been arrested on suspicion of running a prostitution ring.
The actor reportedly named several prominent figures in the Tamil film industry as her clients and as players in the prostitution racket.
Dinamalar carried a retraction and an apology the following day.
“The report as it was published in Dinamalar clearly offended against ethics and good taste,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“There is no doubt that the publication of the names and photographs of prominent public figures in relation to serious offences based on the strength of a supposed confessional statement is not ethical journalism.
“However, as with any media-related dispute, it is entirely unnecessary for the authorities to use criminal law mechanisms to arrest the paper’s news editor.”
Chennai city police arrested Lenin shortly after prominent figures from the Tamil film industry denounced him – and, according to media reports, the profession of journalism itself – at a public meeting on October 7. Film industry lobbies had also reportedly intervened at the highest political levels of the state government.
Lenin has been charged with offences under a state law preventing the harassment of women.
The Editors’ Guild of India, the Madras Reporters’ Guild, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, the Tamil Nadu Press Photographers’ Association and the All Media Journalists’ Association, have joined the Chennai-based Madras Union of Journalists in demanding Lenin’s immediate and unconditional release.
The IFJ calls upon the leaders of the Tamil film industry to accept the retraction and apology offered by the newspaper in good faith and seek redress for any residual grievance that may exist through processes of civil law.