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IFJ Condemns Arrest of Editor in Tamil Nadu State

Media Release: India

October 28, 2009

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the arrest of A.S. Mani, editor of the weekly magazine Naveena Netrikan, in Madurai city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

According to reports from IFJ partners, Mani was arrested on October 25 following a complaint about an article alleging a close nexus between a Madurai businessman and the local Member of Parliament, M.K. Azhagiri, who also holds a cabinet position in India’s Union Government.

The article published in Mani’s weekly alleged that the businessman had a decisive influence in the award of public works contracts in Madurai and nearby districts, and was involved in collecting kickbacks from successful bidders, to be handed over to the local MP.

“The IFJ is disturbed to note the seeming willingness of the local police to pursue a complaint by a private citizen and businessman under criminal law,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“We call upon the aggrieved parties to use civil law processes when seeking redress against any publication that they may find offensive.”

According to reports, Mani was arrested under sections of Indian criminal law relating to causing enmity between communities, defamation and intent to cause panic. Due to concerns about his safety in Madurai, he has been transported by police to a prison in the state capital of Chennai.

The IFJ has previously noted the serious threats facing media workers in Madurai, particularly after the fire-bombing of the offices of the daily Dinakaran in May 2007.

Three employees of the newspaper were killed in the attack, and there has been no progress in identifying those responsible and bringing them to justice.

The 2007 attack was reportedly carried out by partisans of Azhagiri in retaliation for an opinion poll published in the newspaper which indicated Azhagiri had dim chances of assuming the leadership of the political party to which he belonged.

Azhagiri has consistently denied any involvement. Investigations have stalled despite being entrusted to a police agency controlled by the Union Government.

“The IFJ has been informed by partner organisations in India that Madurai is increasingly becoming a dangerous place for media personnel engaged in critical reporting and commentary on locally dominant political groups,” Park said.

“We call upon authorities in the state of Tamil Nadu to call a halt to this campaign of intimidation against the media in the city of Madurai.”


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