The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemns the criminal proceedings launched against K.K. Shahina, a reporter with the weekly news magazine Tehelka in India, after a story of hers appeared to cast doubt at the prosecution of a prominent Islamic cleric and political figure on terrorism charges.
Shahina’s story appeared in an issue of Tehelka dated December 4, released a week prior to the cover date. It is available online and is based on interviews with key witnesses cited in the case made by police in Karnataka state in southern India against Abdul Nasar Mahdani, an Islamic cleric who heads the Peoples’ Democratic Party, active mainly in the neighbouring state of Kerala.
Mahdani has been arrested and charged by Karnataka police for conspiracy to detonate a series of low-intensity bomb blasts in the state capital city of Bengaluru, hub of India’s information technology industry, in July 2008.
Shahina’s story cites several of the witnesses named by the Karnataka police as saying that their testimony has been misinterpreted or distorted in making out the charges against Madani.
“The IFJ is shocked that this fine example of investigative journalism has become the grounds for criminal prosecution of a reporter, on charges of pressuring and intimidating witnesses”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“A reasonable reading of Shahina’s story confirms that this prosecution amounts to little more than an attempt to intimidate journalists seeking to do no more than report the facts.”
The IFJ extends its solidarity to Shahina and endorses the protests that have been lodged with the Karnataka state government by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists and the Delhi Union of Journalists.