Journalist organisations in Tamil Nadu on Thursday condemned the arrest of Dinamalar News Editor B. Lenin and demanded his immediate and unconditional release.

Dinamalar had carried a report on film stars following the arrest of actor Bhuvaneswari on charges of running a prostitution ring. Film stars and artists held a meeting on Wednesday to criticise the newspaper. They later went to the Police Commissioner’s office and demanded the arrest of the reporter who filed the story. Mr. Lenin was arrested the same evening.

On Thursday morning, journalists gathered at the Chennai Press Club to protest the arrest. At the meeting, recordings of the inflammatory speeches made by some film stars were played. A resolution was passed demanding the arrest of the actors.

To press for the release of Mr. Lenin, journalists staged a demonstration near the Gandhi statue. They later met Police Commissioner T. Rajendran and handed over a letter seeking the arrest of actors who had spoken in a manner to incite violence and persisted with their demand that Mr. Lenin be released.

In a joint statement, many organisations condemned the arrest. They said: “The arrest of Dinamalar News Editor B. Lenin by the Tamil Nadu police under undue influence and pressure from a group of film stars and other artistes raises disturbing questions about the freedom of the press and the rule of law.

“While we do not approve of in the least the salacious reports carried by the daily, the matter needs to be dealt with both professionally and under the normal law of the land. The proper course would have been to file a civil defamation case in the matter.

“We condemn this harsh and arbitrary action against the News Editor by the police, yet another episode that reminds us that the Indian law of defamation urgently needs to be decriminalised and that defamation must be made exclusively a civil matter.”

The signatories included N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu; R. Rangaraj, president, Madras Reporters Guild; K.A. Johny, secretary, Kerala Union of Working Journalists (Tamil Nadu Chapter); S.R. Raghunathan, founder-general secretary, Tamil Nadu Press Photographers’ Association; and Satyalaya Ramakrishnan, president, All Media Journalists Association.

BJP State president L. Ganesan condemned the arrest. Terming it an act against democracy, he said it was done with intent to curtail the freedom of the press.

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