House to admonish Marathi paper editor

The Legislative Assembly on Tuesday decided to summon the editor of Tarun Bharath, a Marathi daily published from Belgaum, for admonishment in the House on the grounds that he had published a series of baseless reports against two MLAs – Abhay Patil and S B Ghatge.

The House, which adopted a resolution, also proposed to the Press Council of India to derecognise the newspaper. Besides, it demanded that the paper’s editor, Kiran Thakur, tender a public apology to both the MLAs for defaming them.

Abhay Patil, a BJP MLA from Belgaum South, had complained that the Marathi daily had been publishing baseless reports tarnishing his image for over the last three years . He had said the paper had published reports accusing him of grabbing land on the pretext of widening roads, and trying to demolish a Marathi school. He had alleged that the paper blamed him for creating tension between Kannadigas and Marathi-speaking people.

Ghatge, a Congress MLA from Kuduchi of Raibagh taluk, Belgaum, had alleged that a report in the paper had accused him of swindling money from a school run by him. Both the MLAs had moved a privilege motion against the editor and the Speaker had referred the matter to a 10-member privilege committee headed Dr C N Ashwathnarayan.
Goolihatti Shekar, MLA (Ind), who was on the panel, told the House that the newspaper had breached the privilege of the members.

Joining the discussion, a host of Congress, JD(S) and BJP members alleged that many small newspapers (non-mainstream) are into blackmailing elected representatives and honest officials by publishing baseless reports. Extortion has become a major business for journalists/owners, they alleged.

K M Ashok (Cong) said television channels, in their quest for satire on politicians, were showing them in bad light. Shivalinge Gowda (JD-S) said that though freedom of press should be respected, the media should not be allowed to indulge in extortion. Some restrictions should be imposed on the media, he suggested.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar who moved the resolution, said a “few black sheep” had brought a bad name to the entire media fraternity.

He said that the electronic media, in its haste to outsmart its competitors, was prone to making mistakes.

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