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Police to drop names of journalists from FIR in extortion case

The FIR created a storm with journalists viewing inclusion of their names as a 'direct assault on freedom of press'
Last Updated 26 May 2022, 08:52 IST

After protests from journalists and organisations representing them, the Chennai Police is finally moving towards removing the names of directors of Vikatan, a reputed publishing group in Tamil Nadu, a whistleblower and a YouTuber from the FIR filed on an extortion complaint filed by a real estate firm.

The government shunted out Additional Commissioner (South) N Kannan and asked Commissioner of Police Shankar Jiwal to issue a detailed press note in which he categorically said there is no evidence against directors of Vikatan and “others.” Kannan is now placed on a compulsory wait-ist.

Junior Vikatan, a bi-weekly political magazine published by the Vikatan group; ‘Savukku’ Shankar, a former government employee who is now a whistleblower and social media influencer; and Maridhas, a YouTuber who enjoys support among the right wing, were booked on Sunday after the police arrested the main accused Kevin who was named by G Square, the real estate firm.

On January 18, the FIR said, Kevin, calling himself a representative of the directors of Vikatan, contacted Ramajayam, the company’s CEO, and sought Rs 50 lakh for not publishing articles against it in Junior Vikatan. He also showed a screenshot of the article which was to appear the next day, the FIR filed based on a complaint filed by G Square said.

The magazine published the article linking the firm to a close family member of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin following which G Square sent a legal notice to Vikatan. However, Kevin, according to the FIR, called Ramajayam again and threatened to “release more information” in Junior Vikatan and on social media accounts of Shankar and Maridhas.

The FIR created a storm with journalists viewing inclusion of their names as a “direct assault on freedom of press.” Chennai Press Club condemned the FIR and held a protest on May 24 during which senior journalists demanded dropping the names of the aforesaid from the First Information Report (FIR). The club also submitted a representation to Director General of Police C Sylendra Babu in this regard.

“Since we have come to know that there is no evidence against the directors of Junior Vikatan and others, we are taking steps to remove their names from the FIR. However, the investigation into the complaint is continuing with available proof,” Jiwal said in a statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Jiwal said the police have stumbled upon financial transactions between “some employees of Junior Vikatan” and Kevin. “We are investigating the links between the transactions and the allegations in the complaint filed,” the Commissioner of Police said.

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(Published 26 May 2022, 08:51 IST)

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