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Daily facing "sedition" and "conspiracy" charges

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned a case brought by police in Ahmedabad, capital of Gujarat state, western India, against the "Times of India" for "sedition" and "criminal conspiracy" - charges which amount to serious threats to state security.

City Police chief, OP Mathur, recently posted to Ahmedabad, laid a complaint against the editor of the city edition, a correspondent and a photographer on the national daily after it published articles casting doubt on his ability to protect the population from terrorism and organised crime.

The police chief said that the journalists had broken sections 124a (sedition) and 120b (criminal conspiracy) of Indian criminal law, by questioning his integrity and authority. Anyone found guilty of such threats to state security risks a prison sentence of several years and even the death penalty.

The Editors Guild of India condemned the move saying, "Abuse of the sedition provision against the media negates the freedom granted to citizens by the Constitution". Journalists demonstrated in support of press freedom on 2 June 2008 in front of the city's main police station.

Spokesman for the Congress Party and Member of Parliament, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, strongly condemned the police chief's action. "Neither dissent nor disagreement, not even strong criticism, amounts to sedition". Police officers "should not suffer from illusions of grandeur by equating themselves with the nation", he added, advising the police chief to "relearn the law".

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