NEW DELHI: Senior journalists and former colleagues of Vinod Verma on Saturday expressed solidarity with the arrested journalist and demanded his immediate release. The journalists held a protest meeting at the Press Club of India (PCI) here demanding that Chhattisgarh Police exhibit any evidence against Verma, who was arrested on Friday on charges of extortion after claiming to have a "sex CD" of a BJP Minister.
"Chhattisgarh Police must furnish evidence related to extortion charges against Verma. They must exhibit materials to support its case," senior journalist Vinod Sharma demanded and said that the arrest of Verma is a warning to media.
Comparing the situation with that of Emergency, senior Hindi journalist Jaishankar Gupta said although the situation is not as bad as Emergency as then there were some laws which prohibited media from publishing, "Now people can be arrested on any charges if they publish anything against the government." Om Thanvi, former editor of Jansatta, said that targeting journalists is not a good sign and arresting them under criminal charges is an indication that they might be booked for writing against the government.
Senior journalist Urmilesh criticised the government and said that Verma was targetted as he was member of a fact- finding team of the Editors Guild of India that exposed intimidation of journalists in Chhattisgarh. He said Verma is not a full-fledged member of the Congress party but he is associated with a public relations company that is managing the work of the Congress in Chhattisgarh.
Verma, an independent journalist, had worked with a leading Hindi newspaper and BBC for several years. He was arrested in Ghaziabad early on Friday on charges of allegedly blackmailing a BJP Minister in Chhattisgarh. Verma denied the charge and said he was being framed.