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India 31 January 2003

Reporter arrested in Tamil Nadu state

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) called today on Tamil Nadu chief minister Selvi J. Jayalalithaa to provide evidence of alleged involvement of arrested journalist Krishna Kumar in a murder or free him at once.

Kumar, of the fortnightly Tamil paper Nakeeran, was picked up on 29 January officially in connection with the killing of a young woman five years ago, but the paper says his arrest is part of regular harassment of Nakeeran and its journalists for criticising police brutality.

Detectives arrested Kumar (also known as Makaran) at his home in Coimbatore and reportedly mistreated him during interrogation to discover links between him and Veerappan, one of India’s most notorious bandits, and also to try to implicate the paper’s editor, R.R. Gopal. Police have failed for the past few years to arrest Veerappan and his gang, who roam the state.

One of the paper’s journalists, Siva Subramanian, has been in prison in neighbouring Karnataka state since November 2001 accused of being in league with the gang. Editor Gopal says he is really in jail because he wrote articles about abuses by the special security forces in their search for Veerapan, who Gopal has interviewed several times

Pressure on Nakeeran’s staff has increased since publication last month of a book by a former police chief accusing Gopal of involvement. The editor has several times protested against the harassment of him and his staff.

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