Staying true to its core value of being “a mission, not an industry”, TNIE, throughout 2019, published stories that revealed unknown facts, informed readers, forced the powers that be to rethink their stance and inspired other media outlets to follow up. Here are a few of TNIE’s reports that made an impact.
Police uncle to kids’ rescue
While the judgment in the Walayar case and the Koodathayi murders were the talk of the town, the story about 10-year old Mohammed Abir of Vilayattoor Elampilad LP School, Meppayur, in Kozhikode, came as a welcome break.
The school student had gone to the police station on November 25 with a complaint he had written on a paper torn off from his notebook.
In the complaint, he pleaded the ‘Police uncle’ to get his and his brother Shifad’s bicycles back from the repair shop where they were given two months ago. The mechanic had failed to return their calls and the kids’ relatives did not intervene as the issue was not ‘serious enough.’
After TNIE published the story on its front page on November 27, the Meppayur police took swift action.
The officials confronted the repairman and ensured the cycles were delivered to the kids that day itself. Soon, other media outlets followed up on TNIE’s story which also went viral on all social media platforms.
Barred from living a normal life
On August 3, TNIE carried a report on its front page about 115 convicts/remanded prisoners languishing in three mental health centres – Kuthiravattom, Peroorkada and Thrissur.
The report highlighted the plight of a 72-year-old Palakkad native who had been ‘locked’ in a 35sqft cell of the health centre at Kuthiravattom for 50 years. Another 68-year old prisoner had been stuck at a centre for 39 years while two others had been there for 36 years.
Based on the TNIE report, Kerala High Court Justice Alexander Thomas sought reports from the Kerala Legal Services Authority and the Registrar (Subordinate judiciary), both of who confirmed TNIE’s findings.
Based on their reports, the court initiated suo motu proceedings into the matter and appointed senior counsel Suresh Kumar as amicus curiae in the case. The court also sent notices to 10 government departments, including Social Justice and Prisons.
The court will consider the case in January.
Lapses in Walayar Probe
The death of the minor sisters at Walayar in Palakkad in 2017 had sparked mass outrage in the state, with everyone demanding justice for the girls. Later, the alleged perpetrators were arrested and put on trial.
However, things took a turn for the worse when a special Pocso court on October 25 acquitted three accused persons in the case following the prosecution’s failure to make the charges against them stick.
The judgment kicked up a storm with civil society organisations and Opposition parties slamming the political interference in the case.
On October 30, TNIE published a report “How shoddy probe into elder girl’s death in Walayar helped accused walk free”, which revealed the details of the case and the lapses in the police investigation.
Soon after the TNIE report was published, other media outlets followed up on the case in detail. The report, coupled with the follow-up coverage, generated statewide interest. Finally, the state government ordered a judicial investigation into the case.
A gripping tale of theft and espionage
Two days after a probe began into the theft reported from indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant at Cochin Shipyard, TNIE, on September 20, revealed that items tied to vital ship control had been stolen. While the shipyard authorities and the Navy tried to downplay the incident, TNIE exposed its seriousness by publishing the FIR that the police registered based on a complaint by shipyard‘s authorities.
TNIE also did a series of reports on the theft. Its report on September 22 exposed the police’s bid to cover up the incident by invoking weak charges like house break theft, in a case that had wide ramifications as national security was involved.
Soon after TNIE broke the story, the theft became a hot topic of debate across the country with experts saying it was a case of espionage and not mere theft. The police became serious and the National Investigation Agency, after a preliminary investigation, took over the case.
The agency also invoked serious charges, including IPC Section 121 (waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war against the nation) and 121A (conspiracy to commit offences under IPC section 121). At present, the NIA probe into the theft is in progress.
The poison of Koodathayi
The murders at Koodathayi rocked the state for the sheer planning with which they were committed by Jolly, the prime accused.
TNIE’s exclusive report on October 13 revealed that it was Dr Sonu R, then additional professor of Forensic Medicine at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital, who had — in the autopsy report of Roy Thomas, one of the victims— in 2011, unambiguously wrote, “A strong case of cyanide caused the death.”
The story detailed how Dr Sonu, who died in August owing to renal ailments, had the rare ability to detect cyanide presence by smelling. Despite her observations, the police failed to act which led to more deaths in the family.
The report gained widespread attention and generated much interest. Dr Sonu’s observations were reported by almost every media house later.
Of failed promises
On December 23, TNIE reported about E Sumesh, the captain of the volleyball team which bagged bronze in the Los Angeles Special Olympics in 2015, who was selling rice powder to eke out a living. Though he was promised a job and Rs 20,000 by the then state government, it did not happen. The report detailed how Sumesh’s school teachers ignored his special needs and how he went on to achieve the feat despite all odds.
Moved by the report which depicted Sumesh’s hardships, the State Human Rights Commission asked the Chief Secretary to intervene in the matter. It also sought the official’s report on providing Sumesh with a job in a month.
Fixing students’ exam blues
TNIE, on November 25, reported how scores of MA, MSc, MCom students of Kerala University’s School Of Distance Education were in a fix as the dates of the fourth-semester examinations of some PG subjects clashed with the UGC National Eligibility Test. The report spoke in detail how a sizeable number of PG students would not be able to appear for the UGC-NET exam for Junior Research Fellowship and eligibility for Assistant Professorship due to the clash of dates.
Two days after TNIE published the report, Kerala University rescheduled the examination dates, allowing a large number of students to appear for both the examinations.