International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed to learn of the arrest
of B.V. Seetaram, chairman and chief editor of Chitra Publications, by police
in the district of Udupi in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
whose principal publication is the evening newspaper, Karavali Ale,published
from the adjoining district headquarters town of Mangalore, is reportedly being held on
charges of defamation filed two years ago. He was arrested while travelling
with his wife through Udupi district by car. The police have also detained his
wife who is a director of Chitra Publications.
produced before a magistrate in Udupi on January 5, Seetaram reportedly refused
to move for bail, since there were political forces in his home district who were
allegedly intent on causing him harm.
received by the IFJ suggest that the police had no arrest warrant when they
took Seetaram into custody.
"We are opposed in principle to criminal defamation
laws and the arrest of an editor is a matter of serious concern," said
Jacqueline Park, IFJ Director for the Asia Pacific.
The IFJ is informed that
Seetaram had in December 2008 lodged a complaint with the Press Council of
India (PCI), alleging that there were systematic efforts afoot by political
forces in Karnataka, to prevent the distribution of his newspaper on a regular
The PCI has since issued
notice to the local authorities, asking them to investigate these complaints.
The IFJ learns that Seetaram
and his newspaper have been targeted by the authorities in Karnataka on earlier
occasions too. He and his wife were arrested in March 2007 on charges of
fomenting animosity on grounds of religion, though the case was not brought to
A few days before Seetaram
and his wife were arrested last year, their offices were broken into and
valuable assets either destroyed or stolen.
"We understand that some
incidents of communal conflict witnessed in Mangalore and its adjoining areas
over the last few months have sharply polarised public opinion", said the IFJ Asia Pacific.
"Though Seetaram has been
accused of fomenting animosity on grounds of religion, we are informed that he
has done little else than name names of those responsible for the recent bouts
of violence in the area".
"We urge the local
authorities to ensure that the situation is not aggravated by invoking rarely
used powers of suppressing the right of free expression through the press".
The IFJ calls for the immediate release of Seetaram
and his wife and a full explanation from the Karnataka state police on the
motivations behind its most recent acts of persecution against the press.
For further information
contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612
The IFJ represents over
600,000 journalists in 123 countries