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Why these Karnataka journalists repeatedly come under ‘suspected’ terror threat?

Why these Karnataka journalists repeatedly come under ‘suspected’ terror threat?

It is quite strange that only in Karnataka some journalists are being repeatedly targeted by suspected terrorists unlike any other corners in the vastly spread India. Interestingly it is the same set of journalists who are named as targets according to unknown sources all the time.

Though in India journalists were killed, no journalist so far is a victim of a terror target. And no national-level journalists covering terrorism extensively than these set of journalists in Karnataka were being named in the hit-list of extremists. It is peculiar that some low key journalist, journo-turned-politician and a publisher from Karnataka constantly come under threats when terror attacks targeting scribes are restricted to conflict zones and terror nurtured states like Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan and in rare case events like Charlie Hebdo.

In what could be seen as a classic case of story-planting for political and attention gain, a vernacular television in Karnataka allegedly aired false news on Tuesday claiming accused in RSS leader Rudresh murder case had also hatched a conspiracy to kill popular media and political persons.

Alleged fresh terror threat

Suvarna News 24*7 owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in the afternoon hours of hot Tuesday said accused have confessed to the National Investigation Agency that they were plotting to slay Vishweshwar Bhat, Editor-in-Chief of a Kannada daily Vishwavani, journo-turned-politician, Pratap Simha, Publisher of VRL Media Private Limited, Vijay Sankeshwar and two other journalists.

Suvarna Tv screen grab.

Suvarna Tv screen grab.

The news story said “some NIA sources have confirmed that accused have confessed to the conspiracy they were hatching.” However, top NIA officials speaking to rubbished the news and termed it as ‘false’. One official said “we have not sent out any such communication to any of the media outlet,” while another official told “this is irresponsible journalism. This news is false and these days, television channels stoop to any lows to increase the TRP.”

Interestingly, in journalist Motiur Rehman Siddiqui case (later he was acquitted) who was picked up by the NIA too names of these people appeared. It is said that, from 2010 to 2012, a conspiracy was hatched by Siddiqui and 14 other members to kill these people. However, Siddiqui and Azaz Ahmad Mirza were acquitted citing lack of evidence and 13 others confessed to the crime pointing out delay in the proceeding to complete the hail jail term as soon as possible.

Brief history of Rudresh case

It may be recalled that Shivajinagar RSS Unit Secretary, Rudresh was murdered on October 16, 2016 in broad-day light by bike-borne assailants. Accused in the case were arrested later. Waseem Ahmed, Mujeeb, Sadiq, Irfan Pasha and Popular Front of India (PFI) local leader Asim Sharif are named as accused in the case.

The BJP in the state after the killing of Rudresh demanded handing over of the investigation from Commercial Street Police Station to the NIA crying foul in the probe. Following the demand the Bengaluru Police Commissioner wrote a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs recommending NIA probe. In December 2016 Home Minister ordered NIA probe.

This decision was taken considering the alleged inter-state ramification in the case. It is suspected that though Rudresh was allegedly murdered by locals from Bengaluru, the order to execute RSS Secretary came from the state of Kerala.

But later, on March 21, single bench of the High Court of Karnataka headed by Justice Michael D’Cunnha, upholding the petition of the accused quashed Home Minister’s order and instructed to handover the case back to Commercial Street Police Station. The petitioner requested the court to give the case back to Bengaluru City Police citing technical flaws. Challenging this order, the Ministry of Home Affairs filed an appeal in the Divisional Bench of Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee and Justice P S Dinesh Kumar, following this on April 7, the bench asked the NIA to continue the probe.

Channel’s reaction

Within four days of this order, Suvarna News aired this news as a significant development in the case. While multiple highly placed sources in the NIA confirmed that it is a false news, the News and Program head of Suvarna News, Ajit Hanumakkanavar said “we have strong sources in the NIA and this is a story sourced from one of our reporters. I trust my reporter. When asked about NIA terming this event as TRP game, he contended that these days everything is seen in the narrow prism of TRP but the channel just reported facts.

It is laughable at least this time when a news channel says similar set of personalities are the targets when internal-security journalists are safe and never came under any threat. Moreover with zero track record of covering internal-security of the country many are wondering how these personalities have come under terror radar that too having alleged international terror links.

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