Voicing concern over reports that journalists in Kerala were being restricted from entering various courts including the High Court, the International Press Institute (IPI,) on Wednesday, demanded that scribes be allowed to report on court proceedings without interference.
The restrictions come after a few lawyers of the High Court clashed with journalists on July 19 and 20, inside the courts vicinity.
The scuffle broke out over a news report published in a local daily that criticised the Kerala High Court Bar Association for failing to issue a statement which unanimously deplored the arrest of a legal practitioner accused of molesting a woman on a city street, the IPI said in a statement.
The man, Government Pleader Danesh Mathew, was arrested on July 14, but lawyers involved in last week’s clashes say the case is “fabricated”, the statement added.
Mathew was granted bail and on July 19 filed a petition to quash the case.
After a group of advocates confronted journalists at the High Court on July 19, a scuffle ensued, the IPI said adding that some participants reportedly used abusive language and reporters subsequently boycotted a Bar Association press conference.
Last Wednesday, advocates at the High Court reportedly threatened reporters again, and, after the journalists were prevented from using the media room in the court complex, the media staged a sit-in in front of the High Court, the statement said adding that another clash followed, and several journalists were allegedly injured.
“Following the clashes, journalists have reportedly been denied entry to the media room in the High Court. Journalists were also prevented from accessing the media room in Thiruvananthapuram District Court, where reporters were reportedly also attacked,” the statement said.
Journalists can now only receive information issued to them by the High Court’s public relations officer, IPI added.
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M Ellis called the developments troubling.
“While their positions differ in many aspects, both lawyers and journalists play a key role in promoting and protecting rights. IPI calls on court officials to take immediate action to ensure that journalists in Kerala can report on court proceedings and matters of public interest without fear of attack or other undue restriction,” he said.