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Friday, March 24, 2023

NIA questioning journalists with PFI links in Kerala

National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers are interrogating journalists, including those from major media houses in Kerala, for their alleged links with terrorist outfits. It began on 30 January, and Janmabhumi reported that six journalists were questioned. In the first phase, the preliminary interrogation of six people was completed.

Another batch of 12 media workers suspected of having links with terrorist organizations is up next. These ‘meetings’ have been going on for the past week. All of them were under intensified surveillance for months. Senior officials from the New Delhi and Hyderabad units are camped at the NIA office in Kochi and are leading the investigation.

Various central agencies have been monitoring the movements of a section of Keralite media persons since 2018. These editors/journalists went beyond mere reporting. Their relationship with the Popular Front of India (PFI) leaders, their role in ideation and propaganda, interactions with media and social media, and efforts to influence the common man are all under the scanner. Their financial transactions, sources of income, and frequent trips abroad are suspicious.

Some of them were associated with Abdul Rashid Abdulla, the Kerala leader of the ISIS module. Rashid and a bunch of Christian converts to Islam (including women) went to Syria from Kasargod and joined the terrorist organization ISIS. The men are believed to have been killed by US bombings/bomb vests in Afghanistan, and the ladies are in jail.

During the investigation, the NIA also found that these journalists were named in several telegram messages sent by Rashid as part of IS recruitment. The NIA also uncovered that they played a crucial role in controlling the sleeper cells of IS in Kerala. This was why the six people were called for interrogation.

NIA officials stated that these media persons who appeared for questioning came wearing their organization’s ID cards. At first, they refused to cooperate with the investigation team and remained silent when the evidence was displayed one by one. These editors were unable to provide accurate answers to many questions. Those under observation have a similar perspective.

Senior Journalist N P Chekutty and others attend the Kozhikode PFI Media Seminar (Janmabhumi)

Those questioned included veteran media personality N P Chekutty and the highly secretive P C Abdullah. Both are associated with Thejas, a Malayalam propaganda website owned by extremists aligned with the now-banned PFI. Abdullah is its online editor, while Chekutty still appears as a ‘political analyst’ on several TV channels and continues his Naxal/jihadi-leaning glorifications.   

Reportedly NIA officers sought information from Chekutty in the context of evidence that he was in close contact with several PFI terrorists, many of whom are now in jail. He is a former editor of Thejas newspaper which shut down its print operations in 2018. Intermedia Publications chairman and the then PFI president V P Naseruddin Elamaram founded Thejas in January 2006.

Chekutty was the chief organizer at a ‘Media Seminar’ held near Kozhikode by the PFI on 16 September 2022. The terror outfit was banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on 28 September 2022 for a period of five years. 

The Kozhikode conference saw a cultural event to whitewash the 1921 Moplah genocide of Hindus in Malabar. PFI leaders also used it as a platform to flare up communal tensions by claiming alleged attempts by ‘Hindutva forces’ to convert the country into a ‘Savarna’ racist republic. The so-called debates were aimed at Hindus who support the RSS and leaders bayed for Hindu blood. 

It saw a huge turnout of PFI terror supporters wearing black caps, blue shirts, grey trousers, and black boots marching through town in military-style formations. Leaders claimed Muslim victimization. To appease local communists, they ranted against Rahul Gandhi’s Jodo Yatra. Radical Islamist justifier, The Hindu, better known as the English Deshabhimani (CPM mouthpiece), provided continuous coverage for the controversial event.   

Reports suggest that Chekutty was let go and will be given notice, and a detailed questioning will follow soon. Incidentally, last June, Chekutty infiltrated RSS-affiliated Kesari Weekly as a ‘research person’ at their Media Study Centre in Kozhikode.

NIA’s secret investigation found information about these journalists’ association with anti-national organizations. It is reported that digital evidence confirming this was confiscated from their mobile devices.

Others interrogated include those who work online for the biggest media houses in Kerala. Quite a few are female journalists. Most of them received ‘training’ from Madhyamam before employment in their current firms. Though they are officially on famous media house payrolls, expenses/EMIs are allegedly paid from laundered funds available with the terrorists.

Madhyamam is the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) mouthpiece that glorifies jihad, purdah culture, beef-eating, and anything that involves radical terrorist organizations like the Taliban. It began operations in the late 1980s. Madhyamam has an alleged history of targeting Hindus In Name Only (HINOs) and turning them into propaganda against Hindus.

In early 2022, HinduPost reported that the MEA denied security clearance for Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited-owned MediaOne TV to renew its license. Later, the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry banned it.

After Article 370 was removed, MediaOne painted Kashmiri/Pakistani militants as Martyrs (Shaheed). Army operations against terrorists were termed ‘atrocities against Muslims’, and they alleged that our officers raped local Kashmiri women. 

Hassanul Banna, MediaOne’s Delhi correspondent, came on air and claimed that Hindu protestors were targeting anti-CAA activists in Muslim-dominated areas like Jaffrabad, Maujpur, and Chand Bagh in Delhi and alleged that the Delhi police remained inactive. Other news channels, including Asianet News, used the same narrative to spread fake news. Even though it is technically ‘banned,’ MediaOne continues to operate with impunity and is available 24/7.

Many have 15 to 30 years of experience working in more than one organization. The same broadcasters and journalists joined under the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) banner to release terror suspect/’reporter’ Siddique Kappan from Lucknow jail. Kappan worked for the Thejas Newspaper in Delhi and lived in the PFI office.

Most of the media workers monitored by the NIA are from Malabar. Madhyamam, MediaOne, and Thejas are based out of Kozhikode. Thejas has its registered office just 3 km from Marad beach, where a bloody Hindu genocide happened in 2003. The ancient port city has long been considered the capital of Malabar.

Apart from this, the NIA is seeking information from some chartered accountants and police officers. Information is being collected from CAs concerning monetary transactions of some organizations, including PFI. Policemen who were in contact with PFI leaders will also be questioned.

Central agencies are taking the spread of religious hatred under the guise of media activity seriously. It is alleged that these senior editors helped terrorists by painting them and their actions positively. Apart from the NIA, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has also gathered information.

The NIA has reached these journalists associated with terrorist organizations as a part of follow-up measures after banning the terrorist organization PFI. Media reports suggested that they will be interrogated again in the coming days, and since there is strong evidence against them, measures, including arrest, will be undertaken.

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