Rejaz M Sydeek
Date: 20 November, 2023
General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Subject: Denial of press freedom by CPIM Kerala led Government.
I am an independent journalist based in Ernakulam, Kerala who is a freelancer by the name Rejaz M Sheeba Sydeek. I cover human rights issues faced by marginalized communities and political topics and write articles, interviews and news reports in English for regional and national online portals. After the preventive custody of Muslims youths by Kerala Police in connection with the 2023 Kalamassery blast became viral on social media after victims themselves shared, I wrote a news report on it for award-winning national media outlet, Maktoob Media. Recently Maktoob won the 2023 Human Rights Religious Freedom Journalism Award in the category of Best Media Organization for covering human rights and religious freedom.
On November 16, 2023, i came to know through Maktoob team that an FIR no 1166 has been registered against me on suo-motu by Vadakara police station of Kozhikode rural limits on October 31, 2023, under IPC 153 for reporting the above mentioned news titled “In Kerala, Muslim youths detained for hours following blast; accuse Kerala Police of anti-Muslim bias”. On 16th, the editor of Maktoob media, Mr. Aslah was also summoned and his statements were recorded. I was summoned on the 16th November through the phone and was asked to be present at the station on 17th November. I came to know that the case was registered after being instructed from top.
On 17th, I was interrogated and my only phone and sim card was confiscated without any warrant. I believe this confiscation violates guidelines put forward by the Supreme Court. The deputy editor of Maktoob, Shaheen’s statement was also taken along with me. I and Aslah were told non bailable charges may be registered against me and the editor under IPC 153a.
I testify that the news report was based on facts and it didn’t have my opinions or political commentaries with an intention to cause a riot. The report majorly consisted testimony of a youngster named Nizammudin who was acquitted by Supreme court in the fabricated Panayikulam case, but frequently taken in preventive custody at least 5 times based on suspicion despite having no cases against him. The Aluva rural superintendent of police told me Nizam was not detained in connection with the blast but declined to give the exact reason for the detention. SP also added that in spite of being acquitted by court, suspicion on Nizam will never get away and he’s an internal security suspect and that’s why he was taken in custody on the day of the blast.
My news report was based on the statements and the accusation put forward by the detained youngsters against the police based on their experience. The report also included statements of the police officers including SP. The report also had opinions of well known social personalities including a lawyer.
I strongly believe that this witch hunting against me by Kerala police is for reporting on Kerala police atrocities on those innocent muslim youths who had no connection with the blast. As a reporter, it’s my right to report fairly and I stand by my report which is based only on facts. I also urge the government acknowledged bodies to go through the news report and cross check the report with the victims who faced injustice to confirm the authenticity of the report. Press freedom is being violated here through the registration of case with charges amounting to rioting. Holding police accountable for their inhumane actions is part of democracy and I believe reporting on this is not illegal and unconstitutional.
The position taken by the police of your government in Kerala is against democratic principles which claim to be upheld by CPI(M). The attack on journalism by the Kerala government was not only in my case, but also of another journalist named Dr. R Sunil against whom Kerala Police have registered a case for reporting on Adivasi land grab by mafia. India’s ranking in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index has slipped to 161 out of 180 countries and in future Kerala government will also have responsibility for the slipping rank. The interest taken by Kerala Police against me and their silence on communal statements made by right wing media and Sangh Parivar leaders against minorities on streets and social media raises doubt whether LDF government lost control over home ministry.
If your party stands by democratic rights and against atrocities on minorities, the CPI(M) central committee should look into the above-mentioned case against me and the sufferings of minorities. CPI(M) central committee should take immediate measures and suggest the Kerala government to quash the case registered against me and prove that CPI(M) is for press freedom and people’s journalism, and support of the party for journalism is not limited only to NewsClick.Thanking you,
: Rejaz M Sheeba Sydeek
The photo i have added is the protest by us for NewsClick
Below is the link of the news report targeted by Kerala Police:
Following are the links of news reports by the media on the registration of case against me for reporting: