Indian journalists arrested on charges of extortion

Two Indian journalists were arrested on charges of extortion from a business group run by ruling party legislator, officials said Wednesday.

Indian National Congress MP Naveen Jindal accused Zee News group editor Sudhir Chaudhary and business chief Sameer Ahluwalia of trying to extort an advertising deal worth 1 billion rupees (18 million dollars) from his company.

Jindal said the demand was an exchange for dropping investigative stories about his firm’s alleged links to a multibillion dollar scandal involving allocation of coal licences.

“We have made an effort that the truth must come out. Media has to be above suspicion,” Jindal said.

Zee News denied the allegations, accusing Jindal of trying to bribe the journalists. It said the Congress-led government was trying to muzzle the press and accused Delhi police of acting on Jindal’s behalf.

“We strongly condemn the illegal arrests. We want their immediate release,” Zee News chief executive Alok Aggarwal said.

The journalists could be jailed for up to three and a half years if convicted on charges of extortion and criminal conspiracy.

With the growth of the Indian media in recent years, corrupt practices have been increasingly reported. Recently, three journalists from another news channel were held on allegations of extorting money from a doctor.