The Congress and CPM supporters on social media are fighting it out over an FIR registered against state Mahila Congress secretary and lawyer Veena S Nair on a complaint that she tried to defame and insult Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and media houses through her Facebook page.
The FIR registered by Ernakulam Central Police Station says that Ms Veena, a Thiruvanathapuram-based lawyer and political activist, had defamed CM by spreading fake news on social media platforms through her post which says ‘CM was doing public relations (PR) work while the state was burning (in view of Covid-19) pandemic.
Congress leaders along with the rank and file of the party have come out in open against the filing of FIR and alleged that it was against the fundamental rights which give freedom of speech and the state government was trying to stifle all opposing voices.
Congress MP Shasi Tharoor representing Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha segment had tweeted in support of Ms Veena stating that “I’m sure that police are aware that they cannot harass a citizen for exercising her fundamental right to freedom of speech guaranteed by Art.19 of the Constitution. Asking her to report to Kochi police station amid the lockdown is cynical. I appeal to @ Vijayanpinarayi to withdraw the case.”
MP also requested DGP Loknath Behera to educate ‘errant officers’ (in Kerala police) on basic constitutional principles.
According to him there was ‘nothing derogatory in the post which expressed straightforward criticism entirely common in a democracy.’
Veena S Nair, who came to active politics nearly five years ago, is very active on facebook with her anti-government stand and comes up with posts and videos on a daily basis. Her videos are widely shared on Congress/Youth Congress’ FB groups.
She is also an anchor and a familiar face on the television screen.
She had contested from Sasthamangalam division of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in 2015 as a Congress candidate but lost to the CPM candidate by a margin of 116 votes.
Veena said that the complainant in the case Jahangir Razak Paleri, who is an active CPM supporter on FB, had given the complaint in the contest of her FB post on March 31.
“I posted several pictures of ‘Naam Munnottu’ (90th episode) programme of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan which I clicked on my mobile phone during its telecast on different channels. In this episode, several video clippings of his daily press meets were used. Actually, this programme was conceived as CM’s interactive weekly programme (in which CM interacts with representatives from different walks of life). As per the official release of Information and Public Relations Department (I&PRD) on 26.05.2020 as many as Rs 5.26 crores has been allocated for ‘Naam Munnottu’ programme for its shoot, travel and accommodation of participants, and for telecast it in other selected private channels and state-owned Dooradarshan for financial year 2020-21. In private channels it is telecast as ‘sponsored programme’,” she added.
The major portion of the allotted money is to telecast it on private channels as ‘sponsored programme’ as per this order issued by PRD.
Her post on FB says: “At the time of Corona when the salaries are not paid, what is the need for this PR extravaganza……. CM is conducting daily press meet and do you think the channels are recording the press meet and re-telecast it by their own wish. But that is not the fact. The channels are taking crores of rupees for this one-hour-long sponsored programme….. When the state is burning, one man is doing PR work.”
“I then posted seven other photos which I clicked while the private channels telecast the ‘Naam Munnottu’ programme with the label ‘sponsored programme’ among the pictures there were two screen shots of news items posted on the FB page from the website of a news channel which they were promoted on FB. The promoted FB post of the channel had ‘sponsored’ written over it. I had marked all the sponsored labels on the pictures/screenshots I posted. I checked with the channel and they said they promote three news items from their website on FB on a daily basis and the post obviously will have a ‘sponsored’ label,” Veena added.
Complainant says it's defamation
However, the complainant Jahangir Razak Paleri is of the strong belief that the pictures posted by Veena were the ones which were tampered and whatever she wrote on the concerned post were not regarding ‘Naam Munnottu’ but to mislead the public that CM’s press meets were telecast/ re-telecast as sponsored programme.
“It is clear and that was the reason why police registered a case on my complaint. She has come up with fake photos by putting ‘sponsored’ label on pictures of CMs press meet and other news items,” he added.
Jahangir said that he had e-mailed the complaint to the Chief Minister and Cyber Cell in Thiruvananthapuram after he saw Veena’s FB post. He had also commented on her post that if it was not removed, she would face legal action.
“The post is still there and she has not deleted it,” he added.
Veena refuted the claims of Mr Jahangir saying that the FIR was registered by invoking a single section which is 120 (o) of Kerala Police Act 2011.
The section says that if any person, causing, through any means of communication, a nuisance of himself to any person by repeated or undesirable or anonymous call, letter, writing, message, e-mail or through a messenger, shall be punished on conviction.
“If the police are buying the argument of the complainant, why didn’t they invoke sections of IPC for posting fake and tampered photographs. Anyone can go to youtube and watch the 90th episode of ‘Naam Munnottu’ published on March 29 and check whether video clippings of CM’s daily presser was used in the episode extensively and my post on March 31 was on the basis of this episode.
She also said that she does not hold anything against the new channels. “If ‘Naam Munnottu’ is a weekly interactive programme as widely campaigned by the government and CPM/LDF, let it be telecast in such a way without filling its slots with CM’s daily presser which people have watched already. That is my contention” she added.
This 22-minute-long 90th episode of ‘Naam Munnottu’ has at least six clippings of CM’s daily press meet and it consumes nearly one fourth of the episode.
DYFI state state secretary A A Rahim and former state secretary MLA M Swaraj said that they were not aware of such a case and controversy.
Veena said that she was not afraid of such a case but would take up the matter for a public cause as the FIR registered against her was with the aim to silence differing voices.
Lawyer and activist Harish Vasudevan has also come up against the FIR saying that as per IPC defame/loss of honour is not a cognizable offence and hence the police could not register as case.
He said in his Facebook post the other day that on such complaints of alleged defamation the complainant would file a private petition with the court and only the court could order to register a FIR.
“By registering such a complaint, Kerala Police has misused their power,” the lawyer said on FB.