Journalists in India Endangered by Police Tactics


International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply disturbed over the implications

of a security operation in the Indian state of West Bengal,

in which the leader of a political group reportedly aligned with the banned

Maoist party was arrested by police masquerading as journalists.



to IFJ sources, Chhatradhar Mahato was arrested on September 26 by police

personnel who set up an interview with him posing as journalists.


Mahato had

established a body under the title “People’s Committee against Police

Atrocities” in the town of Lalgarh

in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal last November.


He has

been in hiding in Lalgarh and has evaded repeated search operations by state

police. He has however been available to media personnel, who have typically

faced no hazards in meeting and interviewing him.



reports from India suggest

that the West Bengal state police have for

some time been tracking the telephone calls of some journalists who have had

access to Mahato.



operation to seize him reportedly began two months ago, when police pretending

to be reporters for a Singapore-based news channel contacted Mahato asking for

an interview.


It is reported

that two such “interviews” were conducted and the police posing as media workers

had since been in touch with Mahato by phone. The arrest was effected by armed

police as Mahato presented himself for a purported media interview.



police operation in West Bengal compromises

the status of journalists and spreads a pall of suspicion over the profession,”

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline

Park said.



everywhere enjoy the right to meet and interview individual news-makers. This

is a principle that is grounded in the public’s right to know and applies even

when the individual concerned is a person wanted under the law.


“The IFJ

is concerned that this incident in West Bengal will seriously impede the

freedom that journalists in India

enjoy to access breaking news stories and to meet and interview all parties in

any evolving situation.


“We also

strongly condemn the surveillance operations that the police carried out on

journalists who had met and interviewed Mahato.”



Arrested in Orissa for Alleged Maoist Links



also expresses concern over the arrest of Laxman Choudhary, a journalist for

the daily Sambad in the eastern state of Orissa, ostensibly on charges

of “waging war against the state”.


The arrest

followed the discovery of a parcel containing Maoist literature addressed to

Choudhary. Media reports indicate that Choudhary was a popular figure in his

home district of Gajapati in Orissa and had acquired a reputation for exposing police



“The IFJ welcomes the stand taken by

journalists’ unions in Orissa and expresses its appreciation of a statement by

the chief minister of the state that Choudhary’s arrest violates basic

democratic freedoms,” Ms Park said.


“We call

upon authorities in Orissa to unconditionally release Choudhary and ensure that

he is not subject to any further harassment or intimidation.”


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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