‘I adhered to standard reporting practices’: Asianet journalist accused in Kerala marks row

Akhila Nandakumar is among five people named in an FIR based on an SFI leader’s complaint.

WrittenBy:Alenjith K Johny
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The Asianet journalist booked in a case filed by a Students’ Federation of India leader in Kerala has insisted she “adhered to the standard reporting practices for such incidents”.

Akhila Nandakumar is a chief reporter with Asianet News in Ernakulam. Last week, the Kerala police booked her and four others in a complaint filed by SFI state secretary PM Arsho. This was after Akhila reported for Asianet that Arsho, a master’s student at Maharaja’s College, had purportedly passed his third-semester exams without appearing for them.

Arsho alleged there was a conspiracy to “defame” him. Among others named in the case are the college principal VS Joy, head of the archaeology department Vinod Kumar, and Kerala Students Union members Aloysius Xavier and Fazil. The FIR in the matter was filed under penal sections including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 465 (forgery) and 500 (defamation). 

It should be noted that the SFI is aligned with the CPIM and the KSU with the Congress.

Akhila told Newslaundry she had been reporting on another case – a former SFI leader Vidya who had allegedly “forged” documents to show she had been a teacher at Maharaja’s College. Akhila had been reporting live from the college on June 6, during which she also interviewed members of the KSU.

“It was during this discussion that KSU’s Fazil criticised the SFI and said, ‘Arsho PM, SFI state secretary, is a second-year archaeology student. In his third-semester mark results, while other students had their marks and subjects listed, Arsho’s column only indicated that he had passed.’ I clarified during the live broadcast that this was a political claim,” Akhila said. “The live coverage concluded at this point.”

The channel aired the same details, along with a byte from the college principal. 

“This can be considered live coverage,” Akhila said. “Any journalist in my position would have carried out the same actions. I am unable to comprehend the nature of the conspiracy alleged in this particular case.”

Arsho told Newslaundry it was a “serious accusation” and that Asianet “should have conducted fact-checking before broadcasting the report”.

“If they are not involved in any conspiracy, why should they be concerned?” he said. 

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists had organised a march on June 12 to protest the FIR against Akhila. Meanwhile, the governing CPIM has stood by Arsho, saying “nobody can escape from a case by claiming to be media”.

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