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Vendetta feared in arrest of journalist in Chhattisgarh state

(IFJ/IFEX) - September 14, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates and partners in the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) express their deep concern at the arrest on September 10 of journalist Lingaram Kodopi by police in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Kodopi was picked up from his home in a village in the southern district of Dantewada in the state and reportedly charged with raising funds for the banned Maoist insurgent group.

"The IFJ is worried that the special security laws in force in Chhattisgarh state, which has for long been in the grip of the insurgency, have been used to crack down on free and fair reporting," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Kodopi is one of the few journalists from an indigenous community in Chhattisgarh. With his unique access to the lives of a very substantial part of the state's population, he has been seeking to bring these most often unheard voices into the public discourse.

According to reports from SAMSN partners in Chhattisgarh, Kodopi has had a history of victimisation at the hands of the state police force. He was arrested on August 27, 2009 and only released in early October of that year after his family filed a habeas corpus petition in the state high court.

In July 2010, he was named by the Superintendent of Police in Dantewada as the mastermind behind an attack on the residence of a local political leader, in which one person was killed. He was at the time enrolled in a journalism institute in a suburb of Delhi, undergoing a year-long training program.

Kodopi was then named as the potential successor to a top leadership position in the Maoist hierarchy after the incumbent was killed a few days before in a supposed armed encounter with police in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh. Several prominent civil rights campaigners in Delhi were named as Kodopi's accomplices.

"We are very worried at the persistent spirit of vendetta that police in Chhattisgarh seem to be displaying towards Kodopi," Park said.

"We call upon the police and the Dantewada district administration to clarify the circumstances in which Kodopi was arrested and the specific charges that have been laid against him. We urge that the matter be quickly heard and decided by the relevant judicial authorities on the merits of the evidence."
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