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Reporter who accused local police of corruption is charged with sedition

(RSF/IFEX) - Laxman Choudhury, a newspaper reporter based in Gajapati (in the western state of Orissa) who has written about alleged local police links with organised crime, has been detained for more than three weeks on a sedition charge in Bhubaneswar, the state capital, on the grounds that he was in possession of Maoist leaflets.

"Choudhury's arbitrary and unjustifiable arrest by the Gajapati police violated the Indian constitution," Reporters Without Borders said. "He is the victim of an act of revenge by local authorities who were worried by his revelations. We call for his immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against him."

A reporter for the daily newspaper "Sambad", Choudhury was arrested on 20 September 2009 in possession of Maoist leaflets he had received in the mail.

Sampad Mohapatra, NDTV's Orissa bureau chief, told Reporters Without Borders: "The police wanted to teach him a lesson for exposing their connivance with the local mafia. Laxman had received the leaflets like a dozen other journalists, including me. The Maoists send their press releases and leaflets to reporters on a regular basis. They constitute news material and receiving them can under no circumstances be regarded as evidence of Maoist links."

When a delegation of four journalists went to see Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnai, he promised to order an investigation into the allegations that Choudhury's arrest was an act of revenge. Choudhury is meanwhile still waiting to appear before the Orissa high court on charges of sedition.

"Laxman is a working journalist and does not deserve such treatment," Mohapatra added. "We have condemned the police action and we expect the state government to behave responsibly when dealing with any member of the media fraternity."

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