Orissa scribes demand withdrawal of charges against colleague

Bhubaneswar, March 8 (IANS) Journalists in Orissa Monday demanded the government withdraw all charges against one of their colleagues arrested in September last year for ‘indulging in anti-government activities’.

Dozens of journalists assembled here under the banner of Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP) and made the demand after the police officer who arrested the journalist was caught red-handed by the state vigilance sleuths while accepting a bribe of Rs.10,000 from a marijuana trader Saturday.

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

‘Choudhury had been saying that Gouranga Mohanty, the inspector in charge of the local police station, had framed him for reporting his direct involvement in such illegal marijuana trade,’ Prasant Patnaik who attended the journalists meet told IANS.

‘Now it has been proved true, and Mohanty has been arrested. The government should drop the charges against Choudhury,’ Patnaik said, adding that a team of journalists will submit a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Police had accused Choudhury and the bus conductor of waging war against the government, sedition, criminal conspiracy and assisting Maoist activities.

Although police later dropped the charge of waging war against the government, the arrest attracted wide criticism from various quarters.

Choudhury was released more than two months later after being granted a conditional bail by the state high court.

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