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Following arrest of journalists, IFJ calls on authorities in Andhra Pradesh state "not to allow laws against hate speech to be used as an instrument for silencing critical voices in the press"

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 25 June 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Arrest of Journalists in Hyderabad City

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the arrest of the editor and two reporters of Andhra Jyoti, a Telugu-language daily published from Hyderabad and various other cities of Andhra Pradesh state in India, under a law prohibiting insults to the dignity of people of lower ritual status in the Indian caste hierarchy.

According to information received by the IFJ, K. Srinivas, the editor of the daily, and two reporters, Kumar Vamshi and N. Srinivas, were remanded in custody after their arrest by Hyderabad city police late on June 24.

The police reportedly had no arrest warrant and merely said they had evidence of a violation under the law.

The background to the arrests is a May 26 attack by activists of a community-based organisation, the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS), on the offices of Andhra Jyoti in Hyderabad and two other cities in Andhra Pradesh.

The attack, which caused serious injuries to staff members and extensive damage to property, was ostensibly in retaliation for an editorial in the newspaper that criticised the MRPS leader over his recent political stances and statements.

The IFJ is informed that there was nothing verging on an insult to the community in the editorial.

Following this incident, employees of Andhra Jyoti were joined by various journalists' unions in a protest demonstration to demand action against those responsible for the attack.

The complaint that forms the basis for the arrest of the three journalists yesterday arises from certain acts that allegedly took place during this demonstration.

The IFJ is informed by K. Sreenivas Reddy, General Secretary of the Indian Journalists' Union, an IFJ affiliate, that there is no legal basis for the complaint, since the journalists were merely expressing indignation over the May 26 attack.

"No evidence of any insult to the community by the three journalists has come to light," he said.

"The IFJ calls on authorities in Andhra Pradesh not to allow laws against hate speech to be used as an instrument for harassing and silencing critical voices in the press," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries.

Updates the "Andhra Jyoti" case:

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