A court in Kerala’s Kozhikode on Friday directed police not to arrest the journalists of Asianet News who have been booked in a “fake news” case over an interview with a minor girl who was allegedly falsely portrayed as a victim of drug abuse and sexual violence.
The designated court that handles cases booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act issued the direction when the police sought more time to file its investigation report that was to have been submitted on Friday.
“The court has directed the police not to arrest the accused until further orders and posted the case to March 15,” the channel’s counsel, Sunil Kumar, told The Telegraph.
“The court gave the direction when the police sought more time to file its investigation report. The police have been ordered to file the report at the next hearing,” Kumar added.
The anticipatory bail applications of the accused journalists will also be considered at the next hearing.
The case pertains to a complaint from CPM MLA P.V. Anvar who had accused Asianet News and its journalists of fabricating a story in which a minor girl was falsely portrayed as a victim of drug abuse and sexual violence.
This, Anvar alleged, was done to paint a grim picture of how the state’s law enforcement handles drug peddling and abuse.
The police had registered an FIR naming the channel’s executive editor, Sindhu Sooryakumar, Kozhikode-based regional editor Shajahan Kaliyath and Naufal Bin Yousaf, the reporter based in Kannur who interviewed the girl.
The lawmaker had also alleged that the girl featured in the interview was a relative of one of the channel’s employees.
The police had on March 5 raided the channel’s office in Kozhikode.
The raid, which triggered statewide protests by journalists, lasted four hours but did not uncover any incriminating evidence, in the words of the police officer who led the operation.
The media fraternity and the political Opposition in Kerala have accused the police of acting at the behest of the Left Democratic Front government.
The CPM-led LDF government has been accused of targeting the channel that has been critical of many of the state’s policies.
Anvar had accused the channel of inserting “fake news” in one of the episodes of its series titled “Narcotics is a dirty business”.