Kerala’s gag notice raises questions

In 2009,the Central government had asked the state to ensure that the newspaper’s communal agenda was kept under check.

Written by Shaju Philip | Published: October 11, 2013 12:21:13 am

Malayalam daily Thejas,the mouthpiece of the right-wing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India,has been served a show cause notice by the Kerala government,asking it to explain why the newspaper declaration should not be cancelled as per Section 8 (B) of the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867.

The government said the daily has been engaged in publishing reports,articles and editorials which affect the nation’s unity and interests. The management was heard by the assigned government functionary. This is not the first action against the daily. For the last three years,Thejas has been denied government advertisements. In 2009,the Central government had asked the state to ensure the daily’s communal agenda was kept under check and the state’s communal harmony was not vitiated.

Apparently,the daily’s troubles stem from it being run by a trust managed by the PFI,which has been in the dock for several sensitive cases. Often,it has faced the allegation of being the “Muslim answer” to the RSS. Its workers were accused of being involved in chopping the palm of a lecturer on charges of insulting the Prophet. Recently,PFI activists were held in connection with alleged arms training in Kannur.

Thejas,that started publication seven years back,claims to be giving a voice to oppressed Muslims; be it those in Kerala or Palestine. It has made a mark for itself with its decidedly anti-establishment stance on national and inter-national issues,widening the range of voices available in Kerala’s media space.

Can the government gag a newspaper merely for having taken an anti-establishment stand while highlighting Muslim causes? The daily’s demand that the government point out which report threatened national unity and security,after all,remains unanswered.

Shaju is a special correspondent,based in Thiruvananthapuram

shaju.philip@expressindia.com

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