Hyderabad : Media persons wore black badges and shouted slogans against the police on the premises of Andhra Pradesh state legislative assembly Monday, as they protested the arrest of two journalists in Kurnool district for exposing corruption.
B. Sreeramulu and B. Urukundu, two journalists from Telugu dailies Andhra Jyothi and Andhra Bhoomi respectively, were arrested Nov 7 for exposing corruption in Indiramma housing scheme for the poor.
The journalists exposed how the officials sanctioned houses under the scheme in the names of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, state minister M. Mareppa, local legislator M. Sikhamani and film actor Nagarjuna.
Journalists got the village secretary of Laddagiri in Kodumuru mandal to sanction houses in the names of these personalities.
The investigative story published Oct 23 said village secretary K. Madduleti, for a bribe, signed the document for the release of money and cement bags for the non-existent beneficiaries.
On a complaint filed by the district officials, the police arrested the journalists. They were booked for cheating and for writing stories that harmed the reputation of the government and individual officials.
Justifying the action, police claimed that the journalists were at fault as they secured the certificate from the village secretary through fraudulent means.
Additional Director General of Police (administration) and spokesperson of the state police A.K. Khan said the scribes had criminal motive in securing blank forms and certificates.
"We have acted in accordance with the law. There is prima facie evidence of the criminal intent of the two journalists," he said.
The arrests evoked sharp reaction from the journalists. Andhra Pradesh union of working journalists condemned the arrests and demanded immediate release of the two. The union has been taking out rallies in different parts of the state to condemn the police action.
Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has invited leaders of journalists' union for talks later Monday. State Home Minister K. Jana Reddy said the cases against the journalists could be withdrawn only if the chief minister intervenes.
The opposition parties raised the issue in both the houses of the legislature and alleged that the government was trying to gag freedom of the press.
Bharatiya Janata Party moved an adjournment motion and the entire opposition staged a walkout when their demand for a debate on the issue was disallowed.