Thejas daily again under fire from MHA on similar unverified allegations

    By Staff Reporter,

    Calicut: Blaze of Popular Malayalam daily Thejas continues to alarm security hawks in Union Home Ministry, which has now directed District Collectors of Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram to investigate editorials and articles which according to them has seriously compromised national interests.

    The show cause notice issued to Thejas management has asked to give an explanation on why its declaration of publication should not be cancelled for publishing news items, articles, editorials that seriously compromised national interests and national unity. Notice which was served under sec 8 (b) of Press and Registartion of Books Act 1867 threatened that registration of Thejas can be cancel by the Registrar of Newspapers India.

    Thejas daily, ironic to allegation surfacing it, was started on republic day in 2006, it is widely believed to be a Malayali mouth piece of Popular Front of India, organization which since its inception has been gravel in the eyes of security establishment. As the conspiracy theories on PFI continue to get popularized, Thejas in the same length felt the heat.

    In January 2010 same kind of order notice was issued by Ministry of Home Affairs which has described Thejas as “Part of Pan-Islamic publication network, catering to the communal agenda”, thus ministry demanded action against it. Now with fresh direct enquiry notices Home Ministry seems to want a final assault on the publication.

    Prof. P. Kaleem Koya was the first editor of the news daily; he has been national executive member of PFI and presently publisher of Thejas. Prof. Koya consented that printer of the daily Intermedia publishing limited has a large number of shareholders which supports PFI.

    Prof. Koya told TCN that Thejas in 8 years of its coverage achieved remarkable success now operating with 80,000 prints with five different additions in Kerala and other 30,000 prints from five international Malayalam editions in gulf countries.

    Prof. Koya believes Thejas made its mark in Malayalam journalism due to its critical and unbiased reporting of Government policies and also for presenting other side of stories apart from state versions which hardly get reported. Thejas principles was vocal in its writing approach, “When we observed Govt. high handiness on its people we called it state terrorism, on its biased polices inclined towards Hindutva we didn’t shy away in calling it communal. We also openly criticized Central Govt. on its pro USA and Israel relations and deals, which generated lot of debate in Kerala’s polity.” The above drawn lines of Thejas though made it popular but weren’t tolerated much in the power circles.

    According to Prof. Koya the letters of Union Home Ministry are not isolated events, it was in addition to other coercive actions on part of state Government in May 2010 in the final year of LDF Government advertisement from the Public Relations Department of Kerala and Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity of central Govt. was stopped which the paper was receiving since 2007.

    Thejas fought back against Govt. action and filed a case against PRD of state Govt., when UDF came to power chief minister Oommen Chandy restored the ads on the condition of withdrawal of the case. But as soon as the case was withdrawn, the advertisement ban was again imposed and since few months Center also stopped providing any further Union Govt. ads.

    Editor of Thejas N.P. Chekkutty said that blocking of Government advertisement even after having completed all the formalities to get advertisements, began to show early, establishments biased approach towards their publication.

    Prof. Koya terms the action of Union Home Ministry and Kerala Government a fine pattern of institutional bias where special branch officers prepare any kind of groundless reports and bureaucrats are meant to take action on it.

    Additional District Magistrate of Kozhikode P. Arumukhan told TCN that state administration initiated an inquiry on Thejas only after interference from center, “District collector received a letter from Central Home Ministry ordering inquiry against Thejas for publishing communal news items. As ADM is the authority to grant license for newspapers, order was transferred to my office on which I ordered sub-collector to investigate and submit a report on the matter. “

    When asked to explain the nature of those communal news items allegedly published in Thejas, ADM said, “There was no specific reference given in the Home Ministry notice.”

    The usage of vague term like ‘communal news items’ by Union Home Ministry to order an enquiry has enraged the Tejas management, Editor N. P. Chekkutty said, “They are not giving any proof or even a single reference to any editorial or article which they found communal. And yet they demand to file an explanation on why our publication registration should not be revoked. All this are nothing but baseless wild allegations.”

    Publisher of Thejas gave an equal strong reply to district administrations and ask them to furnish concrete evidence on their allegations, although reply was given on October 1st, they are yet to receive letter back from administration.

    N.P. Chekkutty for almost 30 years worked with different news networks like Deshabhimani, Indian Express, Madhyamam before taking over editorship of Thejas, explaining his stand as an responsible editor Mr. Chekkutty said, “I am going according to the constitution of India, every news item we publish is with the motive to strengthen national unity, we are committed to our national interest. In fact when we write about rights of Dalit’s and minorities vigorously that is also in the interest of the nation.”

    He said there should not be any misunderstanding on Thejas as a ‘Muslim daily’, “We cover every issue, it is not just a Muslim paper, even our writers staff is consist of mixed religions and identities so we uphold the pluralistic values.”

    Thejas administration is firmed that their harassment is due to their relations with PFI, “It is one of major reasons,” claims Prof. Koya, Editor Chekutty said that targeting newspaper for its relationship with particular political front is not just an attack on journalism but also on the democratic politics.

    “PFI is our major supporter, but nearly every political party runs its own media house, if Govt. starts harassing journalist to settle political score then it will be disaster for democracy. If Govt. has anything against PFI then they should attack them directly. Trying to hurt them through us is no way justifiable.”

    Mr. Chekkutty summing up his political vendetta over journalism argument suggests, “Some people are scared as new Muslim-social alliances are coming up in Kerala.”

    K.M. Roy, senior journalist and chairperson of Committee for the Protection of Media Freedom–Kerala stated, “It is a clear case of a Government harassment of a newspaper, this raises a number of questions crucial to democratic practice in India, and the issue of media freedom and empowerment and equal treatment of the marginalized sections in Indian society. The Government seems to be applying different yardsticks to different newspapers and even willing to use the iron hand against a newspaper which it considers not to its liking. The Government has overstepped all parameters of democratic governance in this unilateral application of a draconian legislation to stop the publication of newspaper, cancelling its declaration. This is a matter of grave public concern and we vehemently protest against the Government move to destroy a newspaper.”

    ADM of Khozikhode said that sub-collector is still investigating the matter especially to search for published communal news items as stated by Home Ministry, to provide substantiation reply to Thejas daily management. Till investigation is not completed and final report is not submitted publication of the newspaper will not be halted ADM said.

    Thejas publisher Prof. Koya said they had enough of Government harassment and this time they will take the fight to their thousands of readers directly, “We are going to organize three large public meetings of our readers. Our fight will be of two dimensional legal and direct public struggles. We have a very strong position than the Government.”