A petition has been submitted in this regard to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, and union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley and Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram by 160 journalists and members of civil society.
Santosh Yadav, who used to report for multiple Hindi newspapers including Dainik Navbharat and Dainik Chhattisgarh, was arrested on September 29 and Somaru Nag, an Adivasi journalist working as a stringer-cum-news agent with Rajasthan Patrika, was arrested on July 16 from the Darbha block of southern Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
While Nag has been charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act, Yadav has been charged under the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act (CPSA).
"There is no clarity as to the charges against them, or the evidence which the police hold about their alleged involvement with Maoists," the petition said.
It said the arrests have only "brought to the fore the extremely precarious condition" of journalists reporting from these conflict areas, in particular journalists who live and work in rural areas.
"Nag and Yadav's arrests have contributed to a deep sense of insecurity amongst journalists in the state and a fear that, not just their work, but their own lives, will be in danger if they venture out to do any independent investigation or stories that are critical of either the security forces or the Maoists," the petition said, adding that these arrests suggested that journalists could not expect any protection under the law from police and security forces.
In order to protect their right to work and report freely, the local journalists of Bastar have also formed a Patrakaar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti (United Struggle Body for the Security of Journalists), which, among other demands, called for the release of the two journalists.(IANS)