Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan | Photo: Sabu Scaria/ Mathrubhumi
Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan's decision to exclude some media groups from his interaction with reporters in Kochi on Monday evoked sharp criticism from the ruling CPM and the opposition Congress with both terming the action as "fascist".
Khan on Monday morning categorically refused to speak to the media till reporters from CPM-controlled "Kairali News" and Kozhikode-based "MediaOne" were removed from the area.
"I am not able to persuade myself any longer to speak to people who masquerade as media but are actually members of the party cadre. I won't talk to anyone from Kairali. I will walk away if Kairali is here.
"I hope there is no MedieOne here. I don't want to talk to you (MediaOne). Get out. I won't talk to you and I won't talk to Kairali. Please if anyone is there from MediaOne and Kairali, please get out from here," he shouted.
A visibly irate Khan claimed that MediaOne was only settling scores with him over the Shah Bano case.
"You (MediaOne) are carrying out a campaign against me," he said.
When some other reporters pointed out that everyone at the venue was invited or permitted to be there by the Raj Bhavan PRO, the Governor said "there might have been a mistake".
"I have repeatedly declared I shall not talk to Kairali, I shall not talk to MediaOne. They are carrying out campaigns against me based on total falsehood. If there is any lapse by someone from the Raj Bhavan, I will definitely look into it.
"But I have categorically made it clear that I shall not talk to Kairali or MediaOne. Have made it clear again and again. They are basically political persons masquerading as media," Khan said.
Criticising the Governor's exclusion of certain media houses as "unacceptable, undemocratic and unjustified", Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan said that by barring a section of the press, Khan was preventing information from reaching the people.
"Excluding the media is a style of the fascist regime. It is not only a threat to democracy but also a violation of freedom of the press," he said in a statement.
Satheesan also claimed that even Congress-promoted "Jaihind TV" was denied access to the venue.
He further said that someone holding the office of Governor should not discriminate against anyone, including the media.
He also said that those who occupy high positions, including that of the Governor, should not tarnish the dignity of their office by such actions.
"Whosoever told the media to leave the venue, it was undemocratic," he added.
Speaking on similar lines, CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan said that excluding certain media houses from the press conference, after they were invited, was a "fascist" move.
He said in a statement that the Left party will resist such moves and attempts to intimidate the people and the government of Kerala into submission by these methods will not be successful.
"The Governor earlier also took a similar stand. Those who criticised him were called cadres. This is unacceptable in a democratic society," he said.
CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas also criticised the Governor's barring of some media groups, by terming him a "dictator."
"A dictator is born in Kerala," the MP said in response to the Governor's decision.
Brittas said that Khan insulted the media who came to participate in the press conference after obtaining permission and that freedom of the press needs to be protected.
He also said that all Kairali News employees will be wearing black badges as a sign of protest while presenting the news during the day.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) also condemned the Governor's decision and demanded that he rectify his "mistake" and "express regret" for his "undemocratic" action.
The KUWJ, in a release, also said the Governor's actions indicated intolerance towards criticism and added that it would be holding a protest march on Tuesday morning to the Raj Bhavan.
All media houses were instructed to send an e-mail seeking permission to attend the press conference on Monday morning.
Before the Governor arrived, his office officials read out the list of media houses and confirmed their presence including Kairali and MediaOne. PTI