September 26, 2017
After the Covai Post exposed the issue of 7 temple girls made to participate bare-chested in a temple festival at Vellalur in Madurai district for about 15 days, its editor-in-chief has been continuously receiving threat calls.
The news portal preferred a complaint with the cyber cell of the Coimbatore city on Tuesday stating that following the news coverage, there has been multiple voice calls made through internet threatening the editor of dire consequences. The senior journalist who covered the ritual too started receiving trolls following which she was forced to deactivate her Facebook account.
A senior police official said based on the complaint, the cyber cell has started the investigation tracing the calls through which threats are being issued. “The calls that come from abroad also will be tracked,”he said.
Senior journalists have condemned the intimidation made to fellow journalists. Bhagwan Singh, Executive Editor of Deccan Chronicle, said, “It is very disturbing and disgusting that journalists, editors and media portal that have brought out this bizarre practice under the garb of religion have come under threat. This is unacceptable in any civilised democracy and must be condemned not only by those in the media fraternity but everyone out there in our egalitarian society. The government and the police should act immediately to ensure protection to the journalists concerned and to bring to book those trying to intimidate them and muzzle flow of information to the people. Not just that. The government should at least now take permanent measures to stop this unacceptable practice that demeans girls.”
Also condemning the threats issued to the journalists, Frontline Associate Editor Ilangovan Rajasekaran said, “The civil society must ensure that the mediapersons execute their duty without fear or favour. The State should take stern measures to stop this unethical practice which is being followed. Any such act that frays the right to dignity of girl children must not be allowed even under the ruse of tradition and culture. The villagers must be sensitised.”
“It is a basic right of every journalist to write about any social issue that she sees as violating the rights of women and children. If those still carrying on with the centuries-old practice in the name of culture and tradition have a proper justification for their action, they should defend themselves democratically. If the news outlet refuses to carry their version, then they have other avenues. But trolling and making abusive and threatening calls to the journalists do not augur well for a democratic society. The way the journalists are being harassed only shows that those practising the ritual have no defence in the modern world. So they are falling back to primitive methods like intimidating journalists. It is the duty of the civil society to protect the rights of media by speaking out against these retrograde forces,” said senior journalist G Babu Jayakumar.
Another senior journalist G C Shekhar said, “It has become a fashion to harass and threaten the media when they expose the dark underbelly of society. Media representative bodies should take up this issue to the government and the law enforcers should enforce that the dignity of the girls are protected.”
Meanwhile, the People’s Watch, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, has lodged a complaint with the Madurai Superintendent of Police stating that seven girls in the stage of attaining puberty are being paraded bare chested despite district collector K Veera Raghava Rao ordering that they should be covered with shawls. “District social welfare officer at the site has one photograph of the girls wearing a shawl only to satisfy”an official enquiry but the offence continues under their nose. The girls continue to be bare chested which is a grave offence and violation of their human rights,”its Executive Director Henri Tiphagne has said.