All taped pub attack but no one’s saying who got there first

From a “freelance” cameraman to a website down the road,they were all there,cameras rolling when the Sri Rama Sene attacked a pub....

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore | Published: February 23, 2009 3:42 am

From a “freelance” cameraman to a website down the road,they were all there,cameras rolling when the Sri Rama Sene attacked a pub in Mangalore and assaulted women on January 24. So,who got to the pub first? How advance was the information? Who did the Sri Rama Sene provide the information to?

There are varying accounts of the media’s role in the mayhem at the Amnesia Lounge,depending on who is providing the account.

The Sri Rama Sene’s district convenor,Prasad Attavar,who was among those arrested for the attack,said the media was given information well ahead of the attack. “Around 15 media organisations were given advance information about the plan to go to the pub. I don’t know the names of the organisations. Our men and the media went together,” he claimed.

According to the Mangalore district police,the Sri Rama Sene took along a hired “freelance” cameraman from a local agency called the Annu Studio to film the attack. Much of the primary footage shown around the world emanated from clips sold by the cameraman,Sharan,who was reportedly the only one present through the duration of the siege of the pub which lasted for nearly half-an-hour.

“They made nearly Rs 3 lakh the first day by selling the clips to various channels,” said a senior police officer from the region.

The Annu Studio was among a total of 10 photographers,television and video crews who were summoned by the Mangalore police for being on the spot at the time of the attack,with a view to ascertain whether they withheld knowledge of the attack.

According to Sharan,he received prior information that a protest would be held at the pub by Sri Rama Sene activists. “We were told that girls were dancing in the pub and the Sri Rama Sene would stage a protest there. I was asked to cover the protest. When I reached the spot there were already a couple of cameras at the spot. The Sene activists were still outside shouting slogans and trying to get inside. I followed them in and began filming,” he said.

“Some people later identified me as a Sene activist because some clips showed me moving around with my camera. I was questioned by the police and I told them that we had received information about a protest and had only come to cover it,” said the man from the studio which typically rents out cameras for events like weddings in Mangalore.

The others issued notices were crew from the Kasturi Channel,run by former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s wife; Daijiworld,a website for Mangalore news; TV9,a popular Kannada breaking news channel; ETV and Suvarna — both Kannada news channels,and Namma TV,an exclusive Mangalore channel. A photographer from a local Kannada daily,Vijay Karnataka,was also asked to provide his version.

Besides the police version,there are other accounts as well as to who got to the attack site first. The website,Daijiworld,for instance,claims to have supplied much of its exclusive pictures of the attack from cameraman Ibrahim Baduru to media around the world. “A Daijiworld videographer was one of the first persons to reach the venue,within a few minutes of the incident. We put up the video on YouTube and linked it from our site. We received requests for its use from media houses around the world,” said Walter Nandalike,the editor-in chief of the website.

According to Nandalike,his cameraman missed the early part of the siege,capturing only the latter half as women ran out of the premises,hounded and assaulted by the attackers. He cites this as evidence that the website did not have advance information about the attack. A public witness telephoned the Daijiworld office located in the vicinity of the Amnesia Lounge,he said.

“If you see our clips,it is only for the last few minutes. If we had advance information,we would have shot the entire episode,” he said.

According to Yogesh Holla,a cameraman for the Kasturi channel who was present on the spot at the time of the attack,“we received a message that there will be a protest near the Don Bosco school and many of us had gathered there. When we heard it was at the pub we rushed there. We only got images of the later part of the attack”. The Namma TV cameraman,Laxmi Narayan,also said his office was informed by an anonymous caller. “We all reached the spot late,” he said.

Sources in the media said the message regarding the pub attack was given to a carefully chosen list of local media nearly three hours prior to the attack.

Harsha,president of the Dakshina Kannada Union of Working Journalists said: “The information given was that there would be a dharna and there was no advance information of an attack”. The union has held meetings with the district administration in an effort to get the police to withdraw notices issued over the pub attack. The Karnataka Chief Minister has also asked for dropping of the notices. “The media notices are redundant. We may,however,need mediapersons as witnesses in the case since they were at the site,” said Mangalore SP Satheesh Kumar.

The girls,who were targeted,have chosen to remain out of the case for fear of being further ostracised.

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