In a jolt to the Tamil Nadu government’s attempts to muzzle free press, a court in Coimbatore on Monday granted anticipatory bail to film director Ameer. The Peelamedu police in Coimbatore earlier this month had registered a case against Ameer for his alleged inflammatory speech at a ‘round table’ discussion organised by private Tamil TV channel Puthiya Thalaimurai.
While granting the anticipatory bail to Ameer, the court judge Sanjai Baba made quite a scathing observation stating that the organiser of the event could not dictate terms to the speakers. The court also found slapping a case on the speaker of a TV debate show to be something new, reported New Indian Express.
According to the local police, while responding to BJP State president Tamilisai Soundararajan, Ameer had made certain remarks about the communal tension that prevailed in Coimbatore in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Hindu Munnani functionary C Sasikumar in 2016. His remarks had caused quite a stir angering the cadres of the Hindu outfit.
The manager of the college auditorium had complained to the police claiming that the channel’s representative had originally booked the hall for recording a students’ programme, but they ended up conducting a political debate. The channel, for its part, vehemently denied the charge and said that it had been running promos several days in advance about the theme of the programme and its scheduled guests.
The FIR was also registered against Puthiya Thalaimurai channel, one of its journalists, who had booked the venue and MLA U Thaniyarasu. The channel had organised the ‘Round Table debate on people’s right to protest,’ on 3 June, in which leaders of various political parties had taken part, reported PTI.
Later, Editors Guild of India condemned the police action against the channel and blacking out of other channels through Arasu Cable. Its statement read, “The Guild is appalled that an FIR has been registered by the TN police against a reporter and the management of Puthiya Thalaimurai, a Tamil news channel under Sec 153 A of the IPC (promoting enmity between groups) and other sections of the law on completely unjustifiable grounds.”
Meanwhile, the affected channels have also complained that such blacking out was a routine occurrence every time they broadcast programmes that were not liked by the Tamil Nadu government. Incidentally, the television channel content distribution agency, Arasu Cable, is controlled by the state government. The Guild sought to remind the Tamil Nadu government that the latter ought to have adhered to the recommendations of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India that barred a government from owning a television channel distribution company.