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India 26 February 2003

Police harass the editor and editorial staff of a publication in Tamil Nadu

The state police force of Tamil Nadu (in south-eastern India) have been attempting-by every possible means-to arrest R. R. Gopal, editor of the Tamil-language Nakkheeran semi-weekly magazine because of his alleged relations with the wanted bandit, Veerappan.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has asked the Tamil Nadu state police and government officials to stop harassing Nakkheeran’s editorial staff. The organisation believes that this publication’s executive editor and journalists are being targeted for their coverage of the activities of Veerappan’s gang. "The police are incapable of arresting Veerappan, so they are attacking journalists who have met him. What they are doing is dangerous and reprehensible," wrote Robert Ménard, Reporters without Borders’ General Secretary, in a letter addressed to Selvi J. Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of the Tamil Nadu Government.

On 22 February 2003, officers of Tamil Nadu’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) interrogated Chinna Kuththoosi, a popular Tamil-language editorial writer, for nearly three hours, in an attempt to learn where R.R. Gopal was hiding. The latter has escaped from the police, who have now issued a warrant for his arrest. No one knows what charges may be pending against the journalist, other than that the government is blaming him for having been in contact with Veerappan.

(JPEG) In 2000, at the request of authorities, R. R. Gopal had agreed to meet with gangster Veerappan to negotiate the release of the actor Rajkumar. The police-who have so far been unsuccessful in catching Veerappan and his gang-have since taken at least three of Nakkheeran journalists into custody. As a result of these developments, journalist Sivasubramanian has been behind bars in the neighbouring state of Karnataka since November 2001, accused of being an accomplice of Veerappan’s gang.

Moreover, according to a local human rights organisation, Selvi J. Jayalalithaa’s government has brought 23 complaints for "libel" against various Indian publications, including The Hindu and Dhinakaran daily newspapers.

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