RTIwala Explains Vinod Verma Arrest: A senior journalist named Vinod Verma was arrested around 3 am on Friday from his home near Delhi on charges of extortion. It is believed that he has been working on an investigative story against the Chhattisgarh Government. Vinod Verma, who is a member of the Editors Guild of India, was picked up from his Ghaziabad home by a police team that caught the last flight out of Raipur. The police claim they have seized hundreds of CDs, a laptop and a pen drive from his home.
The police had been investigating a complaint of blackmail over a sex CD allegedly featuring a Chhattisgarh minister. The police raided a shop in Delhi that had made 1,000 copies. The shop owner allegedly named Mr. Verma as the man who had commissioned the copies. The blackmail complaint had been filed by Prakash Bajaj, a Chhattisgarh BJP leader. The Chhattisgarh Government claims Mr. Verma was working with the state’s opposition Congress to discredit the ruling BJP. The journalist, it says, is related to state Congress chief Bhupesh Vaghel. Mr. Vaghel has however denied it.
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An attack on Media does not see an end
Mr. Verma, a freelance journalist, has been Digital Editor at Amar Ujala and has worked with the BBC Hindi service in the past. He was part of a fact-finding team of the Editors Guild that traveled to Chhattisgarh last year to examine cases of intimidation of journalists.
“This is an attack on democracy and we condemn this. They are targeting a journalist to protect their minister,” Mr. Bhupesh Vaghel said. The pre-dawn arrest has triggered outrage, with a deluge of posts on social media. The Congress’ Pramod Tiwari tweeted that the arrest was a clear message that “If you speak against the BJP you will be crushed.” This has been directly an attack on the freedom of media. This is although not the first time that such n event has occurred. Gouri Lankesh was murdered. The government remained quiet then it seems the government is not going to utter a word on this issue too. Media has been attacked but has still risen against all the odds.
The police are planning to take Mr. Verma to Chhattisgarh to question him further.
No safe days for Media
The fact-finding report that Mr. Verma co-wrote concluded that journalists do not feel safe working in Bastar and “there is a sense of fear”. It said journalists had to deal with Maoists as well as the police. Commenting on the arrest or targeting of journalists, the report also said, “The state government wants the media to see its fight with the Maoists as a fight for the nation and expects the media to treat it as a national security issue, and not raise any questions about it.”
AAP Leader Ashutosh has lashed on Twitter. He says that such early morning arrest is a sheer attack on the press and its rights. Another tweet resorted to calling these the Emergency Days. Press is the fourth pillar of any economy. Such continuous assaults towards the media make us question- Where are we heading to?
Another version of Acche Din?
(Inputs by Gehna Kundra)