IFJ Condemns Arrest of Editor in Tamil Nadu State

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.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries