New Delhi, November 1, 2019 — Karnataka police must immediately release Indian publisher Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 24, in the Raichur district of Karnataka, in southern India, police arrested Murthy, publisher of Kannada-language weekly news tabloid Gauri Lankesh Nyayapatha and English-language news website Gauri Lankesh News, according to media reports.
Police accused Murthy of treason, attempted murder, criminal conspiracy, and extortion relating to allegations from 1994, when police allege Murthy was a member of a Maoist group, according to a report by Gauri Lankesh News.
Gauri Lankesh Nyayapatha editor Vasu HV told CPJ he believed the Karnataka state government, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, is targeting Murthy because he writes and publishes criticism of the party and of right-wing Hindu ideology.
Murthy appeared in court following his arrest and was transferred to judicial custody until his next court appearance scheduled for November 6, according to news reports.
“Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy’s arrest in a 25-year-old case is clearly political and an attempt to silence his work,” said Aliya Iftikhar, senior researcher for CPJ’s Asia program, in New York. “Authorities in Karnataka should immediately release Murthy on bail pending their investigation, and allow journalists to work freely regardless of their political opinions.”
Murthy is also the state secretary for the Swaraj India Party, which opposes the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to Gauri Lankesh News.
Police allege that they have been attempting to arrest Murthy since 1994, according to news reports. Vasu said this claim was surprising, as Murthy has been a journalist for years and frequently covered events where senior police officials were present.
CPJ emailed the Home Department of the Karnataka state government for comment, but did not receive a response.
Murthy is the secretary of the Gauri Media Trust, a group dedicated to continuing the work of slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, according to those news reports. Lankesh was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in 2017, according to CPJ research.