The Chhattisgarh Police claimed that they found pornographic content on the mobile phone of Nilesh Sharma, a journalist who was arrested on March 2, for allegedly publishing fake news against the Congress-ruled state government, reported The Indian Express on Tuesday.

However, journalist bodies and Sharma’s family have alleged that he had been targeted for being critical of the state government. Press bodies have alleged that his arrest is part of the rampant persecution of journalists in the state, The Wire reported.

Sharma was initially held in Raipur city on the basis of a complaint filed by a Congress member against his satirical articles. He was charged with Indian Penal Code provisions pertaining to provoking breach of peace, circulating a rumour and making statements to promote enmity.

On Monday, the police added three more charges under sections of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and the Information Technology Act. This was after the police claimed in a press release on Sunday that Sharma had been indulging in “prostitution, blackmailing and obscene chats with males and females”.

The release had not been signed by any official, according to The Indian Express.

Vice President of the Raipur Press Club Praphull Thakur told The Quint that the state government’s actions in the case were “purely dictatorial”. He alleged that in the last three-and-a-half years, more than 100 cases have been registered against journalists in Chhattisgarh.

After he was transferred to a jail in Bilaspur on Monday, Sharma’s family alleged that they had been “threatened” to not talk to the media. They have not been allowed to meet Sharma either, the family members told The Indian Express.

Complaint against Sharma

In his complaint, Congress member Khilawan Nishad had claimed that that Sharma, who ran a satirical column “Ghurwa ke maati” on the web portal India Writers, was a part of the “Godi media”, The Indian Express reported.

“Godi media” is a term used to refer to media organisations which take a pro-government stance.

Nishad also claimed that Sharma had an “agenda” to create “discord in the government”. The portal India Writers was suspended after the complaint was lodged.

Sharma’s articles often used made-up names to refer to ministers and bureaucrats under the Congress-ruled state government, according to The Indian Express. However, Sharma had written such articles during the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule in the state too, according to the newspaper.