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Committee to Protect Journalists urges Chattisgarh CM to ensure release of two journos
A coalition of free expression and human rights advocacy groups led by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a letter to Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh has asked for his intervention to ensure that police and prosecutors swiftly release journalists Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav.

According to them, on January 7, a court denied bail to Yadav. They called on the Chief Minister to ask authorities to drop all charges against Nag and Yadav, and to ensure a safer working environment for journalists in the state.

Authorities arrested Yadav, a freelance journalist whose reporting included allegations of human rights abuses by the police against adivasi or tribal communities in the region on September 29, 2015. Police subsequently accused Yadav, who has faced repeated police harassment in the past, of rioting, criminal conspiracy, and attempted murder, according to his lawyer, Isha Khandelwal.

According to a CPJ release, he was also accused of "associating with a terrorist organization" and "supporting and aiding terrorist groups" under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act as well as under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to Khandelwal.

Nag, who covered rural issues such as access to water and electricity for Patrika newspaper and others, was arrested on July 16, 2015. Police accused him of being a Maoist sympathizer and collaborating with a group of villagers to set fire to equipment being used to build roads in the state.

He faces charges of banditry, arson, and criminal conspiracy under the penal code as well as under the Arms Act, according to Khandelwal, who is also representing Nag.

They said that they are aware about government's commitment in a meeting last month with local journalists to find a resolution to Nag and Yadav's case. They asked the Chief Minister to do all in his power to ensure their swift release, and to take immediate steps to address the violence and harassment that journalists face in the state.

Those who signed on the letter are Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists; Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India; Andrew Heslop, Director, Press Freedom; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA); Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists Daniel Calingaert, Executive Vice President, Freedom House; Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN American Center and Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch.

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