Indian authorities must bring to justice those behind the murder of a journalist shot dead last week in the state of Bihar. Journalists must be protected from threats and allowed to function in an unhindered manner, and their freedom of expression upheld.
“In four months, two regional journalists have been killed in India for their work, and many others are being arrested and intimidated. India is increasingly becoming a dangerous place for journalists,” said Abhirr VP, campaigner with Amnesty International India.
On May 13, Rajdeo Ranjan, the Hindi daily Hindustan’s bureau chief in Siwan, Bihar, was shot dead by unknown assailants less than half a kilometer away from the Siwan Town police station. Ranjan had covered local politics and crime extensively, and had written several recent reports on the nexus between criminals and politicians, including on a former member of Parliament serving a life term for murder. His colleagues and family members told newspapers that that Ranjan had faced threats from political leaders for his writing.
Speaking to Amnesty International India, Saurabh Kumar, superintendent of police, Siwan district, said, “Investigations are going on. We have detained four people so far and I cannot comment more about the investigations. Those who are responsible for Rajdeo Ranjan’s murder, whoever they are, will be arrested.”
“Convictions for attacks on journalists are exceedingly rare. The government of Bihar must send out a strong signal that there will be no impunity for people who kill journalists. Journalism is not a crime, and those who target them shouldn’t be allowed to get away”, said Abhirr VP.
In February 2016, Karun Mishra, who worked with the Hindi daily Jansandesh Times, was shot dead by gunmen on motorcycles in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The state police said that the journalist had been targeted for his reports on illegal soil mining.
In Chhattisgarh, four journalists – Santosh Yadav, Somaru Nag, Prabhat Singh and Deepak Jaiswal – all working out of the Bastar region, have been arrested on politically motivated charges since July 2015. Another journalist – Malini Subramaniam – who had reported extensively on human rights violations by the state government, was forced to leave Bastar in February 2016 following attacks on her home and police pressure on her landlord.
“Every journalist has the right to raise difficult issues and ask tough questions of the government. State governments must respect the constitutional right to freedom of expression, and release all journalists arrested for simply doing their jobs,” said Abhirr VP.
According to Reporters Without Borders, five journalists were killed in India in 2015 for their work, of whom two had exposed illegal mining practices. India was featured in the 2015 Global Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which highlights countries where journalists have been killed without the perpetrators being held responsible.