The Karnataka Police has registered an FIR against Kannada newspaper Vishwavani, and its owner-Editor Vishweshwar Bhat, days after it published an article on fissures within former Prime Minister and JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda’s family following the party’s disastrous Lok Sabha campaign.
The FIR was registered on a complaint by a JD(S) leader, Pradeep Gowda, who accused Vishwavani and Bhat of publishing false and malicious news regarding Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil. Charges include defamation, criminal intimidation, intent to provoke breach of peace, breach of trust, cheating and forgery.
According to the FIR, Vishwavani published a “defamatory” article in its edition dated May 25, headlined ‘Turmoil of the Gowda grand kids’, alleging that Nikhil Kumaraswamy, in an inebriated condition, verbally abused his grandfather Deve Gowda at the latter’s residence in Bengaluru and blamed him for his loss in the Lok Sabha polls from Mandya.
“Despite no such incident occurring, the newspaper has reported it on an imaginary basis in order to derail the political career of Nikhil Kumaraswamy,’’ states the FIR. In another article under the sub-headline ‘Nikhil Kumar’s night time rage’ was a source-based story about Nikhil venting his anger over his loss at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mysuru on the night of the poll results on May 23.
Under a portion captioned ‘Anger against Deve Gowda’, the article said that Nikhil Kumaraswamy also hit out at his grandfather for the poll loss. The story alleged that Nikhil expressed anger over his grandfather not intervening to convince Congress leaders to back him in Mandya, like he had done for another grandson Prajwal Revanna who won from the family borough in Hassan, which Gowda vacated.
After the story was published on May 25, Chief Minister Kumaraswamy stated that the report was “false and malicious”. “A report published in a Kannada newspaper today about Nikhil Kumaraswamy is false and malicious. The pain caused to me as a father through this character assassination of Nikhil has been conveyed to the editor. My request to the media is to desist from playing with the emotions of people with such false news,” he said.
Bhat, the editor of Vishwavani, responded by saying: “The news report headlined ‘Nikhil Kumar’s night time rage’ was obtained by the newspaper’s reporter from trusted sources at the hotel. The Vishwawani paper has never relied on publication of fake or provocative news to increase its popularity. The interest of the paper is merely to bring incidents to the notice of the public.”
Though the newspaper’s report alleged that Nikhil spoke out over his loss at a hotel in Mysuru, the police FIR alleges that the incident occurred at Deve Gowda’s residence in Bengaluru. Nikhil, 30, an actor-turned-politician was earlier involved in a late-night brawl at a restaurant in 2006 in Bengaluru when Kumaraswamy was CM.
Following the police complaint, the Opposition BJP accused the Congress-JDS alliance in Karnataka of muzzling the media. “Curtailing freedom of expression has become the only job of Kumaraswamy. After right-wing social media activists, the Congress-JD(S) government is going after popular media houses and its editors. False FIR has been registered against Vishweshwar Bhat for publishing merely a news article,” said the BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje.
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