A number of journalists, including representatives of Alliance for Media Freedom, have condemned the recent treatment of two Chennai-based journalists by police for helping two French journalists investigate illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu.
The Kanyakumari police allegedly detained journalists D Anandhakumar and M Sriram on 28 and 29 November. Anandhakumar and Sriram had assisted French journalists Arthur Bouvart and Jules Giruadat in covering illegal beach sand mining, reported The Wire.
The four had gone to Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts for the assignment.
The French journalists were also accused of being 'French spies' later. Multiple journalists condemned the attempts at peddling a false narrative on a media freedom issue.
On 26 November Arthur and Giruadat, along with local parish priest Father Kildoss, met an official of Indian Rare Earths Limited. At this meeting, however, Anandhakumar and Sriram were not present with them.
The IREL is the central government’s beach sand mining agency, and is a prohibited and high security zone. However, Bouvart told The Wire that they entered the plant with permission and went directly to meet a manager.
After the visit, the French journalists returned to Paris and both Anandhakumar and Sriram went back to Chennai.
On 27 November, Anand and Sriram continued receiving calls from Kanyakumari DSP Bhaskaran. Both were called to the police station on an agreement that they would be allowed to return to Chennai the same day after giving the statement.
Anandhakumar was repeatedly told not to mention anything about illegal beach sand mining or take the name of key miner VV Mineral.
He was also told that coastal erosion had nothing to do with beach sand mining and that it was due to “global warming”, reported Newslaundry.
The two were detained illegally for 48 hours, during which their mobile phones were taken away for some time. They were only let go on 29 November and after D Geetha, a senior lawyer, intervened.
According to a report by Newslaundry, the Kanyakumari police, instead of stating facts, later spread rumours that the French journalists were “spies”.
Kanyakumari SP Shree Nath and DSP Bhaskaran have gone on record with a variety of contradictory versions, preferring to insist that the two Tamil Nadu journalists were with the French journalists when they entered the premises of IREL, which the journalists have denied.