June 28, 2019
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 the country’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 condemned the recent attacks including the killing by immolation of a journalist in Madhya Pradesh and a night attack on a female journalist in New Delhi.
On June 24, the IJU wrote to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh State, Shri Kamal Nath to demand an investigation into the murder of journalist Chakresh Jain.
According to the IJU, family sources reported that Jain was deliberately set upon by local Janpad Panchayat administration official Aman Choudhary and accomplices, who doused him in petrol before setting him on fire on June 19.
Mr. Jain, who worked at a Hindi daily in Shahgarh, suffered burns to 90% of his body. The confrontation between Jain and Choudhary followed a long-running legal dispute.
On the evening of June 23, New Delhi journalist Mithali Chandola was traveling home from work in her car when two persons on a bike attacked her. She was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences with serious injuries, the IJU said.
In its letter to the minister, the IJU’s Secretary General, G Prabhakaran, cited key journalist murders in India in recent years including the brutal shooting and murder of journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh in 2017 and the killing of four 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.
The IJU continues to highlight India’s appalling record of impunity for journalist attacks and says “ruthless murders are symptomatic of a larger problem of silencing journalists.” In addition to outright murders, journalists were increasingly being attacked, it said.
The IJU called on the Madhya Pradesh state minister to take up the serious matter of freedom of the press and freedom of expression with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the government of India to stop attacks against media persons and to ensure action is taken against those involved in “organized attacks.”
The IFJ and its affiliates have 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 are 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.”
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