The Editors Guild of India on Thursday lent support to journalists’ associations in Tamil Nadu, demanding immediate release of B. Lenin, news editor of Tamil daily Dinamalar on Wednesday.
The guild said in a press release that it was “shocked that policemen in plainclothes, who did not have a warrant from a judicial authority”, dragged Lenin out of his office in Chennai and “hastily produced him before a magistrate, not allowing him access to legal assistance”.
The guild said the police action “disturbed the editorial functioning of the Dinamalar and posed a threat to the freedom of the press”.
The Dinamalar had on Sunday carried a report, alleging that a small-time actress, who was arrested on charges of running a prostitution ring, had named other film stars reportedly involved in prostitution. Written in a salacious style, the report was accompanied by photographs of the film stars.
Following protests from the film fraternity, the newspaper had published an apology the next day, saying that the report was written without ulterior motives or an intention to hurt anyone.
The South India Film Artists Association, however, was not satisfied. It decided to press defamation charges against Dinamalar on Wednesday. It was after this that the police barged into the newspaper office and arrested Lenin under the non-bailable section of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women Act of 1998.
Media watchers said the vernacular press should change the language it uses when reporting on women. A senior Tamil journalist, who did not want to be named, said, “This change will come only when the management decides to clean its stables and provide appropriate training to journalists."
He said, "The Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act mandates that photos or personal details of those arrested not be revealed, and those arrested should be treated not as criminals but as victims. We need to take a look at how we write.'