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Orissa: Scribe harassed for ‘sedition’

Posted by Admin on October 14, 2009

D N Singh

At a time when the state of Orissa faces the biggest internal security threat from the Maoist menace spread over 23 out of 30 districts of the state and the security ‘bandobust’ remains incapable of coping with it, the police in Orissa seems to be desperate to somehow save its face. As a result they look for soft targets – either innocent tribals or common men – to please the bosses in Bhubaneswar. And the most recent victim of police wrath was a journalist in the Gajapti district of Orissa. Journalist Laxman Choudhry was thrown behind bars on the charges of ‘sedition’.

His only fault was that he had in his possession a few leaflets sent by the Maoists, which is an usual practice the Maoists adopt to remain in touch with the media.

What is more pathetic is that, just two days back the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who holds the Home portfolio, dubbed charges against Laxman Choudhry as ‘ridiculous’ in the presence of a battery of media men and told his principal secretary to immediately take up the matter with the local police and drop the charges against Choudhry within 24 hours.

The visiting scribes who met the Chief Minister with the plea showed him samples of same leaflets that had come to many media houses in Bhubaneswar either by post or through other means. The Chief Minister minced no words in upholding the rights of the media and asked his advisors to respect the ‘rights’ of media without any prejudice or intolerance.

But nothing happened after that. Laxman is rotting in jail for the last 25 days under IPC 120-B, 121 & 21-A and 124.

It is debatable whether receiving a leaflet from a Maoist any other outlawed outfit through the Indian Postal Service or through courier amounts to a culpable offence for a journalist. Laxman had received the bundle of leaflets through the conductor of a passenger bus on that route. The bus conductor is also in jail.

Would the state police now initiate action against the scribes in Bhubaneswar who receive such leaflets through the post? In which case would it also take action against the Indian Postal department as it is the courier?

If there is any evidence against Choudhry that establish his link with the red rebels, then the police (or the constable who had booked the scribe for sedition) should produce it in court. Else, let’s not indulge in demonising of a journalist who had brought to light chinks in the armour of the local police through some fearless columns of a vernacular daily.

Choudhry had drawn the attention of the local SP and the Collector to a Ganja racket flourishing in that area with the tacit support of the local police. He has perhaps paid the price for his journalism.

It is for the legal brains to ascertain if 124 IPC (sedition) is applicable in this case but, while Choudhry rots in the jail, his family suffers the trauma of complete social ostracism once the message went about branding him as a naxal sympathizer . The Chief Minister, like any other forward looking politician, professed support for press freedom, and the police and the bureaucracy, the usual media phobes, have behaved in this case like religious dogmatists to pin down a voice raised against them. Today it is Laxman Choudhry, tomorrow it can be anyone from the world of media.Zee News

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