Tamil Nadu police arrested the founder of a news portal called SimpliCity on Thursday for reporting on shortage of food for postgraduates in Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital and alleged corruption in the public distribution system (PDS) during lockdown, reports said.
Andrew Sam Raja Pandian has been booked for offences under Sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a civil servant), 505 (i) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, The NewsMinute reported. This is the first time that the act has been invoked against a journalist in the state, TNM says.
Police told The Hindu that the case was registered based on a complaint filed by M Sundararajan, Assistant Commissioner (Personal). According to the report, the complainant alleged that SimpliCity’s reports were provocative enough to turn healthcare professionals and PDS employees against the Government and could lead healthcare professionals to stop work.
Pandian’s colleague told TNM that other portals had also published similar reports but “we have been targeted because we are a small organisation and can be squashed.”
The portal’s report on food shortage for postgraduates students in Coimbatore Medical College said they had protested after authorities did not take action on the matter.
Its report on PDS irregularities said that the Collector had called for probe into the matter while the Circle Tahsildar Shakuntala confirmed they had received complaints from five people on not getting proper ration.
Last week, Mumbai police had arrested a journalist from the ABP Majha after he reported on a South Central Railway internal note that suggested that a decision had been being made to run special trains for stranded people.
The Central government had earlier this month urged the Supreme Court to direct media outlets to not print, publish or telecast anything on coronavirus without first ascertaining facts from it.
The court had said,“We do not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but direct the media refer to and publish the official version about the developments.”
The Caravan’s Sagar Chowdhury reported last month that hours before announcing the lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a video-conference with over 20 mainstream print media owners and editors during which he asked them refrain from negative coronavirus coverage.