What initially appeared to be an innocuous visit by the state Director General of Police V Dinesh Reddy to the residence of a controversial Muslim religious figure, has now turned into a full-blown confrontation between the cops and the media.
Angered over the reporting of the visit, the police has gone all out against the concerned media-persons.
The two reporters -- Ravi Kumar and Akhtar -- of Zee’s Telugu channel (Zee 24 Ghantalu), who were arrested two days ago, were released from the Chanchalguda jail after a local court granted them bail on Wednesday.
Kumar and Akhtar were charged with telecasting a false report and morphing the pictures, an allegation the reporters and the media house have denied.
The police has also booked a case against the resident editor of The Hindu’s Hyderabad edition, S Nagesh Kumar
The case was booked at the Punjagutta police station on the complaint of Assistant Commissioner Ram Narasimha Reddy who is also president of the AP Gazetted Police Officers Association.
The case against the resident editor was booked under sections 469 and 505 (1) (A) and (B) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 3 of Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1992.
These sections pertain to forgery for purpose of harming reputation, and to induce the commission of an offence with intent to cause fear or alarm to public.
The incident was covered by all newspapers and TV channels in Hyderabad in detail, including how Reddy was accompanied by senior police officers and was carrying some file with him. The police had even regulated the traffic on the route for 40 minutes.
The police officials were taken aback by the coverage, as the press was not allowed inside the house when the DGP was there. A photo of the DGP with folded hands sitting besides the Habib Mujtaba Al Aydrus Baba, the godman, was carried with the report.
The police now claim that it was morphed photo but did not deny that the DGP had indeed visited the place.
The reports also alleged that the so-called godman was in fact, a land-grabber, raising eyebrows about the motive of the visit.
The Zee TV report had also alleged that the baba indulges in black magic and was quite popular among politicians.
Interestingly, Dinesh Reddy chose to visit the godman at a time when he was in trouble over many accounts. Recently, the court had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry to look into his assets. He is also fighting over the issue of extension of his term, which is ending by this month end on his reaching the age of superannuation.
The first information report has described The Hindu report as false and baseless and said it was published with out any verification of facts.
At the same time it justified the visit by the DGP on the grounds of public interest, peace and harmony. In the present scenario of Ganesh Chaturthi and Nimmajanam, such visits by the police officers cannot be questioned, it said.
The complaint alleged that the report was mala fide and intended to harm the reputation of the DGP in particular and the entire police department in general.
Meanwhile, the editor of The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan, described the police charges as "baseless" and said "we will fight them". "They represent a clear attempt by the DGP to use the police to try and intimidate the media in general and The Hindu in particular," he wrote. "The Hindu takes its responsibilities as a leading national newspaper very seriously. We also take the freedom of the press very seriously. We would like to assure our readers and well-wishers that we will not be intimidated by this kind of misuse of police powers."