Kerala opposition stages walk-out to oppose move to curb freedom of press

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led opposition Monday staged a walk-out from the Kerala assembly alleging that the ruling Left Front government wants to bring in a law to curb the freedom of press.

The assembly burst into a furore following statement of Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Sunday that the government planned to bring in a law to empower police to question journalists who file news reports on criminal cases.

He also said that the neighbouring Tamil Nadu already has such a law.

K. Babu, of the Congress, said the state government was planning a draconian law to gag the press after the media came out with revelations in Paul M. George murder case that show the investigating officials in poor light.

“Why are you so scared and whom do you fear if the media comes out with truth in this case? The minister said that they are considering laws similar to Tamil Nadu. This is against the basic tenants of democracy,” Babu said.

State Law Minister M.Vijayakumar, however, denied any move to gag the media.

“That is not our policy. We are for the freedom of the press. What he (Balakrishnan) meant was that during investigation, all facts and circumstances of a case can be called for by the investigation official. Even the news reports. Sometimes such things help in the case,” Vijayakumar said.

In his reply, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said: “It was your (Congress’) leader who gagged the media during the emergency period (1975-77). We have no such intention. You are raising this for no reason.”

Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy said: “I have checked with officials in Tamil Nadu and there is no such law there. Your own police chief here has said in a recent interview here that the state is in the grip of various mafia control close to Rs.50,000 crore in sectors like vehicle finance, illicit liquor, sand mining and other illegal activities.”

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