Senior journalist Vinod Verma, who was reportedly working on an investigative story against the Chhattisgarh government, was arrested in the early hours of Friday. A former BBC Hindi Digital Editor, Verma, has been slapped with alleged charges of extortion and was picked up from his home in Ghaziabad.
Sources claim that cops were probing a complaint of blackmail registered by Chattisgarh BJP leader Prakash Bajaj on October 26. Chattisgarh police claim to have recovered hundreds of CDs, a laptop and a pen drive from his house, NDTV reported. A Delhi shop was raided by the police, who recovered 1,000 copies of a sex CD, featuring a state minister, that had allegedly been commissioned by Verma.
Verma’s involvement in a case criticising Chattisgarh govt
Verma, previously an editor of Amar Ujala is now a part of the Editors Guild of India. As a member of the guild’s fact-finding team, he had visited Chattisgarh in March last year to review cases where journalists have been arrested and faced intimidation for doing their job. The Indian Express reported that the committee had revealed that journalists work under immense pressure and a sense of fear was prevalent among those working in the conflicted Bastar region and the state capital Raipur. A few of them even complained of their phones being tapped.
Alleged extortion charges
Currently a freelance journalist, Verma was allegedly using the Chattisgarh minister’s sex video to make extortion calls. According to the Indian Express report, the complainant claimed that Verma was threatening to make the sex tape public unless the senior BJP leader paid up.
Sources in the Chattisgarh government confirmed to the newspaper that the arrest was related to a video in Verma’s possession. After the case was transferred to the crime branch, a New Delhi video operator was questioned, following which Verma’s involvement came to light.
NDTV reports that the Chattisgarh government alleged that Verma was working with Congress to malign the ruling party BJP’s reputation. The report stated that unnamed sources suggest that the senior journalist is now working as a consultant for Chattisgarh Congress president Bhupendra Baghel and regularly travels between Raipur and New Delhi.
What’s happening now?
The senior journalist has claimed that the Chattisgarh government is targeting him because he has a sex tape of Chattisgarh minister Rajesh Munat.
I have a sex CD of a Chhattisgarh Minister, he is Rajesh Munat & that is why Chhattisgarh Govt is not happy with me: #VinodVerma— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 27, 2017
Now, Verma will be produced before a court in Ghaziabad on Friday. However, criticism poured in from all quarters, who view this case as an attack on freedom of speech.
ChattisGarh Minister @RajeshMunat says CD is fake,demands forensic probe into CD #VinodVerma @abpnewstv— milind khandekar (@milindkhandekar) October 27, 2017
Vinod Verma was part of the fact finding team of Editors Guild of India that looked at the intimidation of journalists in the state https://t.co/3mfwJVUZXG— Supriya Sharma (@sharmasupriya) October 27, 2017
AAP leader Ashutosh tweeted about Verma’s arrest, claiming it is an “attack on press”.
Vinod Verma Ex BBC n Amar Ujala Digital Editor has been picked up most mysteriously by UP N Chhatttisgarh Police 3.30am. Attack on press?— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) October 27, 2017
UP Police tweeted in response to AAP leader Ashutosh that Verma was charged with extortion registered at Pandri police station (Raipur).
@ashutosh83B-He’s arrested by Chattisgarh police in a case of extortion registered at P.S.Pandri,distt Raipur.(Cr no 340/17,U/S 384 506 IPC) https://t.co/dINKY9NKBg— UP POLICE (@Uppolice) October 27, 2017
Congress also condemned the attack, claiming it’s an attack on democracy to protect the Chattisgarh minister.
We condemn this attack on democracy where journalist #VinodVerma is being targeted to protect Chhattisgarh minister.https://t.co/l7CrAzAQMj— Congress (@INCIndia) October 27, 2017
Feature image source: Twitter