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Three newspaper journalists released on bail; two face onerous bail conditions that may interfere with their ability to practice journalism

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 30 June 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Welcomes Release of Journalists in India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release in India of the editor of the Telugu newspaper "Andhra Jyoti" and two of its reporters following their arrest on June 24 for the alleged offence of insulting the dignity of those of lower ritual status.

K. Srinivas, Kumar Vamshi and N. Srinivas were granted bail by a court in Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh state, on June 26 and released the following day.

The IFJ is concerned to learn, however, that Kumar Vamshi and N. Srinivas, the two reporters, were granted only conditional bail, requiring them to report every week to the nearest police station. This amounts to an unreasonable restraint on their ability to pursue professional duties.

The IFJ is also disturbed to learn that on June 27, 51 journalists were taken into preventive detention at the pilgrimage town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, shortly before a visit by the state's chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

The police allegedly feared that there could be a breach of the peace, though the journalists had no intention other than to present a memorandum of protest on the "Andhra Jyoti" arrests.

According to K. Sreenivas Reddy, general secretary of the Indian Journalists' Union (IJU), an IFJ affiliate, a war of words between the newspaper and the Andhra Pradesh Government shows no sign of abating.

On June 25, the chief minister declared in New Delhi that "Andhra Jyoti" was financed by the state opposition. The next day, "Andhra Jyoti'"s publisher served a legal notice on the minister for damages of 500 million Indian rupees (about US$12 million). The minister reportedly replied that he would demand 10 times that amount from the newspaper.

The National Union of Journalists of India (NUJ-I), another IFJ affiliate, reports that the chief minister has a long record of verbally attacking the press, especially the two leading newspapers in the state, "Eenadu" and "Andhra Jyoti". Early in 2007, he authorised the state's Department of Information to take legal action against media groups that were allegedly "slandering" the Government. The authorisation was withdrawn after protests from journalists.

The minister has also reportedly said on record that his son had set up a Telugu language daily of his own in order to counter the influence of "Eenadu" and "Andhra Jyoti".

The IFJ deplores the perpetuation of this negative relationship between the Andhra Pradesh Government and the media and calls upon the state's authorities to respect the independence of the press and honour the wisdom of maintaining an arm's length relationship with the media.

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

Updates the K. Srinivas, Kumar Vamshi and N. Srinivas cases: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94846

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