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Vinod Verma arrested: BJP attacks Congress for confusing 'media freedom with criminal activities'

Vinod Verma arrested: BJP attacks Congress for confusing
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Training guns at the BJP over the arrest of senior journalist Vinod Verma on charges of extortion, the Congress today accused it of squeezing press...

Training guns at the BJP over the arrest of senior journalist Vinod Verma on charges of extortion, the Congress today accused it of squeezing press freedom and demanded immediate release of the scribe.

Senior Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken also demanded a judicial probe into the "serious sex-related allegations" against Chhattisgarh minister Rajesh Munat, which, he added, were being investigated by the journalist.

Referring to Verma's arrest, Maken said, "The Narendra Modi-led central government and the Chhattisgarh government have been attacking, squeezing press freedom...We strongly condemn Verma's arrest and demand that he be released immediately and a judicial probe into the allegations against the state minister announced."

Verma, who earlier worked with the BBC Hindi service and Amar Ujala, has claimed that the Chhattisgarh police is not happy with him as he has a "sex CD" of a minister of that state.

He was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police from his Ghaziabad residence at around 3.30 am today on charges of blackmailing and extortion. Around 500 CDs with pornographic contents, Rs 2 lakh in cash, a pen drive, a laptop and a diary were seized from his house.

Citing other cases of attacks on mediapersons, Maken said Verma's arrest should not be seen as a "one-off" incident.

Noting that Verma was also a member of the Editors' Guild, the Congress leader wondered whether a junior journalist would dare do investigative stories after the way the former was picked up from his residence late at night just because "he was probing the allegations against a state minister".

Meanwhile, Munat said the CD was fake and asked chief minister Raman Singh to order probe.

"The sex CD is fake. I appeal to the chief minister to get this investigated from any agency. I condemn this," Munat said.

The BJP also condemned the Congress statement, calling it shameful. "It is utterly shameful that the Congress is confused between media freedom and criminal activities beyond the realm of media space. Attempt to blackmail is a serious criminal offence and the Congress is showing its political bankruptcy by defending it," BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said.

Meanwhile, a Ghaziabad court rejected Verma's bail plea, and granted Chhattisgarh police his transit remand till October 30, his lawyer said.

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