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Journalists arrested in Andhra Pradesh; cameraman shot at in Kashmir

(IFJ/IFEX) - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemns the arrest of two journalists in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh after their news channel carried an allegedly "unfounded" report relating to the death of the state Chief Minister in September 2009.

The report, which suggested that one of India's biggest corporate groups was involved in the helicopter crash that killed the state's highest elected official, aired on January 7. Widespread violence and property damage have since been reported at facilities belonging to the corporation across the state.

Aired by TV5 channel and the Saakshi network, which is owned by the late Chief Minister's son Y.S Jaganmohan Reddy, the report was attributed to a website registered in Russia. It suggested that a dispute over the sharing of petroleum and natural gas resources may have been behind the alleged conspiracy against the Chief Minister.

Andhra Pradesh police arrested TV5 executive editor Brahmananda Reddy and input editor Venkata Krishna on January 8 and produced them before a magistrate the following day. They have been remanded for two weeks and face a bail hearing today.

The two journalists have been charged under sections of India's law dealing with causing ill-will between different groups of people and disrupting social harmony.

Simultaneously, the offices of Saakshi TV were visited by police who questioned top editorial and management staff and impounded several documents and electronic storage media.

K. Srinivas Reddy, Secretary-General of the IFJ-affiliated Indian Journalists' Union (IJU), has met with the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and demanded that the journalists be released. He said the arrests were wholly unnecessary and smacked of vindictiveness, when the journalists had shown their willingness to cooperate with investigators.

"The IFJ fully supports the IJU actions and demands that the two journalists be set free immediately," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"It serves no purpose to make a scapegoat of the journalists who had no role in the politically orchestrated violence that occurred across the state."

In a separate incident, a cameraman in Srinagar, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, was shot and injured by police while covering the aftermath of an armed encounter between security forces and two separatist militants.

The incident occurred when a group of journalists entered a hotel in Srinagar's Lal Chowk area that had been commandeered and held for close to 24 hours by two militants.

Amaan Farooq, a cameraman with the Greater Kashmir newspaper, was one among a group of journalists to be verbally abused by a police deputy superintendent, who insisted they leave the area.

Despite having obtained access to the area through appropriate channels, a number of the journalists complied with the officer's demand. Farooq was one among four journalists who remained. He was shot as he left the site later after filming.

Media reports and IFJ sources in Srinagar maintain that the shooting was carried out with deliberate intent.

"The IFJ calls upon authorities in Kashmir to investigate this incident thoroughly and ensure that police personnel are not permitted to act with impunity in matters involving the security of journalists engaged in their professional work," Park said.

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