India's Zee News says arrest of editors 'illegal'

Naveen Jindal, managing director of the Jindal Group and a politician with the governing Congress party Naveen Jindal made the complaint against the Zee News editors

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Indian television channel Zee News said the arrest of two of its senior staff for alleged extortion was "illegal".

Zee News chief executive Alok Agrawal, demanded their immediate release.

Sudhir Chaudhary, head of news, and Samir Ahluwalia, head of business, were remanded in police custody for two days on Wednesday by a court in Delhi.

The editors are accused of trying to extort millions of dollars in exchange for not running reports on an alleged coal scam linked to the Jindal Group.

The arrest of the two journalists followed the release last month of video footage said to have been secretly filmed by Jindal group officials during a meeting with the two editors.

"If we take just 15 minutes of a conversation stretching over hours then it can be made to look incriminating," Mr Agrawal told a press conference on Wednesday.

"Naveen Jindal [managing director of the Jindal Group and a politician with the governing Congress party] tried to bribe my reporters," he added.

Mr Agrawal said since his editors were co-operating with the police, there was no reason to arrest them.

Zee News has threatened to launch a defamation case against Mr Jindal who, along with his officials, made the complaint.

The two journalists are accused of asking Jindal officials for about $18m (£11m) in advertisements in exchange for suppressing news reports about the firm's alleged links to a high-profile corruption scandal involving the allocation of coal mining concessions.

Mr Jindal has refused to comment on the arrests because the case is in the courts.

The arrest of senior journalists is extremely unusual in India.

Analysts say that, whatever the truth, it is likely to lead to a wider debate about media ethics and the relationship between editors and the world of business.

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