India’s increasing spate of attacks and murders of media workers has prompted a direct call to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for urgent action into India’s poor record on journalist safety. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates, the Indian Journalist Union (IJU) and the National Union of Journalists – India (NUJI), strongly condemn recent attacks including the killing by immolation of a journalist in Madhya Pradesh and a night attack on a female journalist in New Delhi.
According to the IJU, family sources reported that journalist Chakresh Jain was set upon by local Janpad Panchayat administration official Aman Choudhary and two accomplices. The brother of the deceased has alleged that the men doused Jain in petrol before setting him on fire on June 19. The 40-year-old, a local journalist of Shahgah in Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, worked at several Hindi dailies in Shahgarh. He and Chowdhary had been involved in a legal dispute and the case was in its final stages of hearing. According to police, the deceased journalist was found in a deserted place with burns to 90% of his body.
On the evening of June 23, New Delhi journalist Mithali Chandola was travelling home from work in her car when she was attacked by two persons on a bike. She was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences with serious injuries.
The IJU expressed grave concern at the failure of the Senior House Officer Zahid Khan to record the dying statement of Chakresh Jain and investigate the case properly, but did acknowledge the local police superintendent’s action in initiating a probe against Khan.
The IFJ and its affiliates continue to highlight the cases of key journalist murders in India in recent years including the brutal shooting murder of journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh in 2017 and the killing of three journalists in 2018 – Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, of Dainik Bhaskar; Sandeep Sharma, of News World; and Shujaat Bukhari, of Rising Kashmir. Nischal and Singh were run over by an SUV following reports on child marriage. Sharma too, was killed when he was hit by a truck on his motorcycle after receiving threats for his reporting on illegal sand mining. Bukhari was targeted and shot, despite having police protection, for his reporting on the situation in Kashmir.
IJU president, Amar Devulapalli, and secretary general, Sabina Inderjit, called for an immediate inquiry and justice for the family. The IFJ recorded seven killings of Indian media workers in 2018, two more from the five confirmed in each of the two previous years.
The IFJ said: “We join our Indian affiliates in denouncing the appalling attack on Chakresh Jain which has added another name to a depressing roll call of loss and tragedy to the community of journalists in India. We remain concerned that these murders are a worrying indication that journalists’ attackers are growing emboldened in suppressing independent reporting in the world’s largest democracy. Unless they are stopped by denying them the impunity for their crimes, there is a real risk of losing a free press, an important pillar of democracy in India, to forces of intolerance, bigotry and violence.”