Orissa journalists to protest colleague's arrest

Bhubaneswar : Journalists in Orissa are set to stage a protest outside the Raj Bhavan Monday against the arrest of a scribe last month on charges of sedition and assisting Maoists.

“The mediapersons will wear black badges and stage a demonstration in front of the Raj Bhavan here,” Prasant Patnaik, a member of a delegation that met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Friday night to register their protest, told IANS Saturday.

“Journalists across the state have also been appealed to launch a similar stir. Our protest will continue till the government assures us that no scribe in the state will be falsely framed and victimised,” he said.

Laxman Choudhury, a reporter of Oriya daily Sambad, was arrested Sep 21 from Mohana area in Gajapati district after a packet containing Maoist leaflets addressed to him was recovered from a bus conductor.

Choudhury continues to be in prison despite the intervention of the chief minister, who had assured that necessary steps would be taken to withdraw the case against him.

A four-member delegation of journalists, including Prasant Patnaik, met the chief minister at his office late Friday and submitted a memorandum signed by a large number of mediapersons, urging Choudhury’s release.

“The chief minister expressed surprise over the delay in the withdrawal of grievous charges like sedition and criminal conspiracy slapped against Choudhury,” Prasant Patnaik said.

Naveen Patnaik was shown a packet containing the same Maoist leaflets that was delivered to a Bhubaneswar-based journalist by the postal department and he agreed that the charges levelled against Choudhury were unwarranted, the journalist added.

He has instructed his principal secretary to ensure that the serious charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy against Choudhury are dropped, he said.

Journalists allege that the police had acted against Choudhury because he had published a news story saying that the police were hand-in-glove with drug traders who were paying huge amounts as bribe.

The chief minister has promised to institute an administrative probe into the allegations, the journalist said.

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