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Court frees arrested senior magazine editor in south India

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A court in southern India released the chief editor of a prominent investigative magazine on Tuesday, hours after police arrested him on charges of publishing material that defamed the state governor.

R.R. Gopal was arrested at the airport in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, on Tuesday morning as he was about to board a flight to a neighboring state, said a police official at the station where Gopal was detained.

Police later took Gopal to a court in Chennai and sought his further custody. However, the magistrate refused the request and set him free.

Outside the court, Gopal defended the magazine’s report and vowed to continue with the probe. He accused the government of curtailing freedom of the press.

Gopal was arrested after his influential Tamil-language magazine, “Nakkeeran,” published reports linking the governor to a recent university sex scandal, said the police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

The officer said the arrest was based on a complaint filed by an official associated with the governor’s office, accusing Gopal of defaming the governor and spreading misinformation. He said the report was published in the magazine in April after the scandal surfaced the same month.

Gov. Banwarilal Purohit ordered an investigation into the scandal, according to an official at the governor’s office.

Dozens of journalists and opposition politicians protested the arrest. They gathered outside the police station where Gopal was held and demanded his immediate release while shouting slogans against the government’s action.

The Chennai Press Club issued a statement condemning the arrest, calling it misuse of authority and law.

M.K. Stalin, a prominent politician in the state, accused the authorities of “threatening media freedom.”

In July, the global watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed serious concern at “an alarming deterioration in the working environment of journalists in India” and demanded that the government ensure the safety of reporters.

India’s press freedom ranking dropped by two points this year, placing the country 138th, according to the watchdog.

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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