(November 06, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Reporters Without Borders condemns journalist A.S. Mani’s detention in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu on a criminal defamation charge. Mani, who edits the Tamil weekly Naveena Netrikkan, was arrested in the city of Chennai without arrest warrant, on 25 October, as a result of libel suit by a local businessman.
“Mani is the latest victim of Indian laws that criminalise defamation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Misuse of the laws governing defamation and slander pose a permanent danger to Indian journalists. These laws are contrary to international press freedom standards and must be amended without delay.”
Reporters Without Borders has registered a growing number of cases of arrests of journalists and censorship in India in the past two months, including the arrest of another Tamil journalist (http://www.rsf.org/Tamil-
Nadu-edito...), a refusal to issue a visa (http://www.rsf.org/No-visa- for-Germ...) and the detention of a journalist in the eastern state of Orissa (http://www.rsf.org/Reporter- who-acc...). And the federal government has just banned foreign reporters from going to the easternmost state of Arunachal Pradesh to cover a visit by the Dalai Lama.
After 10 journalists were physically attacked by police in the northeastern state of Manipur on 10 October, more than 100 journalists staged a protest, handing in their press cards on the grounds that they offered no protection against abusive treatment by officials.
Mani was arrested at his home in Chennai at 5:30 a.m. on 25 October as a result of a complaint by local businessman Pottu Suresh over a report published two days earlier linking Suresh to political corruption.
Mani was detained under article 502 of the criminal code concerning the publication of defamatory printed material but he is reportedly also being prosecuted under articles 153A, 503 and 505, which concern incitement of hatred and public alarm and which carry heavier sentences.
Naveena Netrikkan Special Correspondent Parthiban Mani told Reporters Without Borders: “A.S. Mani’s arrest and continuing detention are unwarranted. We firmly condemn the behaviour of the Tamil Nadu government and the Madurai police, and we call for our colleague’s release.”
Because of the possibility of harassment by fellow inmates, Mani was transferred to Puzhai prison in the state capital, Chennai.