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Two journalists named in police commissioner's sedition complaint against newspaper

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Alarmed at Sedition Charges in India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed at charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy brought against two journalists and India's largest English newspaper, the Times of India, by the police commissioner in Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat.

The criminal complaint lodged by O.P. Mathur names Bharat Desai, resident editor of the Ahmedabad edition of the Times, and Prashant Dayal, a reporter with the same newspaper. It is believed that the name of Gautam Mehta, a news photographer who was named and erroneously identified in the first complaint, was removed from a second version.

The National Union of Journalists of India (NUJ-I) and the All-India Newspaper Employees' Federation (AINEF), both IFJ affiliates, joined the IFJ's call for the charges to be withdrawn.

According to information received by the IFJ, the Ahmedabad edition of the Times ran a series of reports between May 28 and 31 noting serious complaints against Mathur, who recently was appointed police commissioner.

The complaints have been the subject of thus far inconclusive judicial proceedings and departmental inquiries. The news reports suggested that until these matters were resolved, there was reason to question Mathur's suitability as police commissioner.

IFJ Asia-Pacific said the Times of India is serving an important public cause in bringing these questions into focus and that the charges are misplaced.

"The notion of sedition bears reference to a less enlightened time, when citizens and the press had little liberty to question the conduct of public authorities," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"It has no place in a modern democratic society that values the right to free speech."

The IFJ, with the NUJ-I and AINEF, extend their support and solidarity to all journalists' unions, professional media organisations and civil society groups that have protested Mathur's invocation of the sedition clause in the Indian Penal Code.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

Updates the "Times of India" case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94245

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