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IFJ Welcomes Release Of Two Jailed Journalists

IFJ Welcomes Release Of Two Jailed Journalists In India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of two jailed journalists in India, after varying terms in custody on questionable charges.

Laxman Choudhary, a journalist for the daily Sambad in the eastern state of Orissa, was arrested on September 21 on charges of ostensibly “waging war against the state”. This followed the discovery of a parcel containing Maoist literature addressed to Choudhary.

Media reports in Orissa indicated that Choudhary was a popular figure in his home district of Gajapati and had acquired a reputation for exposing police corruption.

Orissa’s chief minister was on record within a week of Choudhary’s arrest, sharply criticising the effort to muzzle the press. Yet it was not until December 4 that Choudhary was released on bail, ordered by the High Court of Orissa. He continues to face charges of sedition and will suffer significant restrictions on free movement as a bail condition.

A.S. Mani, editor of the weekly magazine Naveena Netrikan, in Madurai city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, 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 and Minister in India’s Union Cabinet, M.K. Azhagiri.

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.

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

Mani was released on November 27 following the grant of bail by the Madras High Court in Chennai. He will continue to face charges and a long and potentially difficult legal battle.

“The IFJ is concerned at the use of special security legislation and criminal defamation laws against journalists in India. We urge authorities to deal with these two journalists in particular and the media in general with full transparency and recognition of the right to information,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.


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