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Indian Senior Journalist arrested over extortion charges

A senior Indian journalist was arrested by police on Friday over charges of extorting money from a state minister with a sex video clip, officials said.

Vinod Verma, a freelance journalist, who has worked with the BBC and the Amar Ujala Hindi news group, was picked up from his house in Ghaziabad city near New Delhi.

Verma, who appeared in court, claimed he was arrested because he had a “sex tape” from a sting operation conducted on the minister in Chhattisgarh, a central Indian state.

“We have proof of the extortion charges against Verma,” Chhattisgarh police officer Pradeep Gupta told reporters, adding 500 CDs, pen-drives and a laptop were seized from his home.

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Verma has been accused of working at the behest of the rival Congress party in Chhattisgarh, a charge that that party has denied.

“The Chhattisgarh government has arrested me because I have a sex tape of the minister. I am being framed,” Verma said.

Verma was member of an Editors’ Guild of India team which wrote a report slamming the police crackdown on journalists in Chhattisgarh, which is affected by a left-wing Maoist insurgency.

Journalists critical of police actions to contain militants in Chhattisgarh are often seen by the authorities as supporting the rebels.

Several Indian media professionals raised questions over Verma’s arrest.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is ranked a poor 136th among 180 countries on the 2017 World Press Freedom index.

Amnesty International in a report this year has said repressive laws were used by authorities to press criminal charges against critics and curb freedom of expression.

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