News portal founder arrested in Tamil Nadu for 'critical reports' against state govt

Last Updated 24 April 2020, 07:45 IST

The founder of a Coimbatore-based news portal has been arrested and remanded to judicial custody for two reports that were critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 situation in the industrial city.

D Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, the founder of SimpliCity, a bi-lingual news portal based out of Coimbatore, was booked under Section 3 of The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and two sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The arrest came on a day of dramatic developments in Coimbatore, on Thursday when a reporter and photographer of the news portal were detained at a local police station for the better part of the day. Hours after they were let off, police took Pandian into custody and produced him before a local court.

Two articles published by SimpliCity, according to the FIR, on shortcomings faced by government healthcare professionals, and alleged corruption by some employees of the Public Distribution System (PDS) outlets were “false” and “provocative''.

The complaint was filed by M Sundararajan, Assistant Commissioner, Personal Administration, Coimbatore Corporation, police said.

Pandian has been booked under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 505 (1) (b) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity) and Section 3 of The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

However, senior journalists said the real reason for Pandian’s arrest was another article published in SimpliCity that was highly critical of the powerful Municipal Administration Minister S P Velumani, who hails from Coimbatore.

They shared the link of the story which quotes Singanallur MLA N Karthik accusing Velumani of “missing from action” during COVID-19 on social media platforms.

DMK president M K Stalin also condemned the action against SimpliCity founder and accused Velumani of “misusing his authority” to suppress journalists and their voices. He also demanded the release of Pandian.

Chennai-based Centre of Media Persons for Change condemned Pandian’s arrest and demanded immediate withdrawal of the case against him and his release from jail. In a statement, CMPC said the case against a journalist for writing about the shortcomings is in violation of the rights granted to him in the Constitution. “It is clear that there is an ulterior motive in the complaint filed by Sundararajan. We demand that a committee be formed to enquire Sundararajan to bring out the truth,” it said.

(Published 24 April 2020, 07:45 IST)

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