Journalist Raghu was arrested from Hyderabad by the Mattampally police in Telangana on Thursday, near his house in Malkajgiri, while he reportedly stepped out to buy groceries amid the lockdown in the state. While initial reports suggested that Raghu had been kidnapped and his family were frantically looking for him, the police later issued a statement that he had been arrested. The journalist wrote for Tolivelugu and other media outlets and was a critic of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
In a statement to his wife, the Station House Officer of the Mattampally Police Station said that Raghu was arrested at 12.45 pm on June 3 near his house, where he was informed of the grounds for his arrest and was later produced before a local court before being remanded into judicial custody. The Mattampally police in Suryapet district said that they had picked up Raghu with regard to an old case where he had been booked under sections 146,147 and 148 (Rioting), 332 and 333 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) read with 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code besides relevant sections of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932. Exact details of the case are awaited.
Journalist unions and political parties have responded to Raghu's arrest and condemned the move by the ruling TRS government. In a statement, Sravan Dasoju, national spokesperson of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) said, "Raghu, who has been fighting against TRS government's fault lines and spreading awareness around public issues continuously, should be saved. He is a very agile journalist who has a brilliant understanding of social issues and belongs to the backward class community. The TRS government is solely responsible for Raghu's safety and immediate steps should be taken to prevent any untoward development in this regard."
The Congress also demanded that Telangana State Press Academy Chairperson Allam Narayana issue a statement and pressurise the government to consider this incident as an attack on the media and its freedom of expression. Telangana BJP chief Bandi Sanjay also condemned the arrest and said that he would take up the issue with the Union government.
Condemning the arrest in a series of tweets, BJP leader Bandi Sanjay said, "Will journalists be arrested for pointing out the shortcomings of the government in our society? Some ruling party leaders occupied tribal lands in Huzur Nagar constituency's Gurrampode Thanda. He has been booked for covering the case in the media."
"It is the media's job to highlight corruption and irregularities in public. The KCR government wants to silence the media and give a message that cases will be filed against ruling party leaders," he added. Pointing out that journalists played a crucial role in the agitation for statehood, he asked how a senior journalist could be 'kidnapped' 24 hours before the state celebrated its formation day. "What happened to Raghu today, could happen to another journalist tomorrow," he said.
Raghu was earlier in the news in 2019 when the Hyderabad police detained the Chief Executive Officer of Telugu media outlet Mojo TV, Revathi Pogadadanda, from her house in Hyderabad. The police had registered a case under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in which Raghu was the main accused. A guest who had appeared on a debate show on the channel had filed a police complaint saying that he had been insulted. Revathi had been granted conditional bail later, and the incident had been condemned by several people and organisations.