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India 21 September 2007

Four journalists get jail terms for contempt of court

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at a New Delhi court decision today to sentence the publisher of the Mid-Day newspaper and three of his employees - two editors and a cartoonist - to four months in prison for contempt of court because they accused a former senior judge of issuing a ruling that benefited his son.

"While judges have a right to defend themselves before the courts, but there is no reason for them to abuse laws, such as the contempt of court law, to punish journalists who make embarrassing revelations," the press freedom organisation said.

"This ruling is a step backwards that weakens press independence and threatens investigative journalism," Reporters Without Borders added. "We call for the highest judicial authorities to intervene so that these jail terms for Mid-Day’s journalists are not upheld on appeal."

The offending report in Mid-Day claimed that former senior judge Y. K. Sabharwal benefited his son’s company by authorising the demolition of buildings. The four journalists - S. K. Akhtar, Vitsha Oberoi, Irfan Khan and M. K. Tayal - were released on bail pending the outcome of an appeal.

The Editors Guild of India said the prison sentences were a threat to press freedom.

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