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Worrying Trend in Journalists’ Murders

August 29, 2013

By Vibhuti Agarwal

Sam Panthaky/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images Journalists staged a protest in memory of slain Mumbai-based reporter, Jyotirmoy Dey in Ahmedabad, June 14, 2011.

Sam Panthaky/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Journalists staged a protest in memory of slain Mumbai-based reporter, Jyotirmoy Dey in Ahmedabad, June 14, 2011.

Four journalists have been killed in Uttar Pradesh in northern India in the last two months, according to local police and media groups, raising fears that press freedom in the world’s biggest democracy is increasingly at risk.

On Sunday, Rakesh Sharma, a 50-year-old reporter with a Hindi newspaper in the state was shot dead by two men on motorcycle while he was returning home from work, according to Nilabja Chaudhary, the senior superintendent of police in Etawah, the district where the incident took place.

“Prima-facie, it appeared to be a case of personal hostility,” Mr. Chaudhary told India Real Time Tuesday. A comprehensive probe is underway, he added.

In another incident, the body of a local journalist Zakaullah, who goes by one name, was found on Saturday dumped in a jute bag by the roadside in Bulandshahr district, nearly 250 miles from the state’s capital Lucknow, said Nitin Tewari, senior superintendent of police in Bulandshahr in an interview with India Real Time Tuesday.

“It seemed he had been brutally beaten to death since his body had numerous wound marks,” Mr. Tewari said. The case is under investigation, he added.

Separately, a local television reporter Shashank Shukla was found dead in Banda district, 120 miles from Lucknow and another unnamed journalist was found murdered in Lakhimpur Kheri district, 107 miles from the state’s capital, last month, police in the two districts said.

In both cases, police have no clues about the identity of the attackers or the motive for the murders.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S. based eminent journalist body, said 51 journalists have been killed in India since 1992. Out of these, in 29 cases, the motive for the killings has been identified, while in the remaining cases, it remains unclear.

survey by International News Safety Institute, a U.K. based non-governmental organization for the safety of journalists and media staff, this month listed India as the “second most dangerous” country for journalists after Syria, with six deaths during the first six months this year.

The last time India appeared among the top five worst countries was in 2010, the survey added.

Journalists in Uttar Pradesh are becoming increasingly angry with police for failing to make a breakthrough in the recent killings and have demanded greater protection from the state government.

“It is a matter of serious concern. The killings underline the increasing threat journalists are being subjected to by powerful political and business interests involved in unlawful activities,” said Satyaveer Singh, vice president of the Uttar Pradesh Accredited Correspondents Committee, a local body of journalists.

He said that in recent weeks, there had been several incidents of journalists, “mostly covering politics, business and corruption, being beaten or threatened” by politicians and criminals.

“This is a latest trend,” the local group of journalists said in a letter to the state’s chief minister earlier this week, according to Mr. Singh. “If such incidents continue to happen without being checked, they will certainly act as a deterrent for journalists who are exposed to multiple risks while performing their duties and investigating issues,” the letter said. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.


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