The story of India’s slain journalists

Eight murders and not a single conviction. Is it any surprise India is considered a dangerous place for scribes?

ByIshan Kukreti
The story of India’s slain journalists
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The recent murders of stringer Indradev Yadav in Jharkhand and editor Rajdev Ranjan in Bihar have put the spotlight back on journalist safety in India, especially in smaller cities and towns.

According to data released by Reporters Without Borders, India was the deadliest nation for journalists in Asia in 2015. Not to mention the routine harassment and abuse journalists – especially women scribes – suffer on the Internet.

The picture becomes starker when you look at the very real threat to life that journalists face. Eight journalists have been murdered in India since 2015, out of which four scribes were based in Uttar Pradesh. But what happened to these cases? So far not a single conviction has been secured in any of them.

1) Indradev Yadav,Chatra, Jharkhand (May 12, 2016)

Yadav was a stringer for Taaza News and was killed while he was returning home. His case is currently under investigation.

2) Rajdev Ranjan, Bihar (May 12, 2016)

Ranjan was the bureau chief of Hindustan in Siwan. He was killed by two men on a motorbike. According to reports, Ranjan’s wife has said Rashtriya Janata Dal worker Upendra Singh, a close aide of former RJD Member of Parliament Mohammad Shahabuddin had threatened Ranjan. Singh has been taken into custody, ostensibly for possessing alcohol in a dry state.

3) Karan Misra, Uttar Pradesh (February 13, 2016)

Misra was the Ambedkar Nagar bureau chief of Jansandesh Times, a Hindi daily. The local illegal mining mafia is believed to be behind the murder. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had ordered the formation of a special team under Director General of Police Javeed Ahmed to look into the case.

Five people have been arrested in relation to this murder. According to reports, two local contractors, Rahul Singh and Pawan Singh, were upset by Misra’s coverage of illegal mining in the area and hired criminals to kill him.

Newslaundry’s attempts to get in touch with the DGP office to know more about the progress in the case yielded no result. The DGP was unavailable, while his PA was clueless about the case.

4) Hemant Yadav, UP (October 3, 2015)

Yadav was a television journalist for TV 24 and was shot dead by two assailants on a motorbike. When Newslaundry called Dheena Police station, the station officer was reluctant to talk and said that the culprits have been arrested and the case is closed, before hanging up abruptly. He, however, could not give any specifics about the number people arrested or their names.

Reports claim that Yadav’s murder was an act of revenge.

5) Akshay Singh, Madhya Pradesh (July 4, 2015)

Singh, a journalist for AajTak TV channel, was in Jhabua, covering the infamous Vyapam Scam when he mysteriously died. The Supreme Court has ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into the scam and Singh’s death. The investigation is still underway.

6) Sandeep Kothari, Maharashtra (2015, June 19)

Kothari was a journalist for a Hindi daily based out of Jabalpur. He reported on illegal mining. According to reports, he was set ablaze and killed for not retracting a case against the local mining mafia. Kothari was abducted in Balaghat district, Madhya Pradesh, and later his body was recovered from a farm at Butibori in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

So far, seven accused have been caught by the police and a challan has been given by the police under Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 173. However, the hearing on the case hasn’t started as the police are still investigating some points, sub-divisional officer of police (SDOP) JS Markam told Newslaundry.

The case will begin as soon as the investigation is done.

7) Jagendra Singh, Uttar Pradesh (June 8, 2015)

Singh was a freelance journalist who was doused in kerosene in his house on June 1 and burnt to death allegedly by UP Police inspector Prakash Rai. According to reports, Jagendra was targeted by Uttar Pradesh Minister for Backward Classes Welfare Ram Murti Singh Verma for exposing alleged illegal mining activity. The immediate cause for the attack was purportedly Singh’s Facebook post accusing Verma of his involvement in a local woman’s gang rape.

The minister, the police officer and four other accomplices were booked on June 9 and cases were filed against them.

However, the case took an unusual turn when Singh’s son submitted an affidavit in Shahjahanpur court on July 21 saying his father had carried out a self-immolation.

Since then the case is closed.

8) Sanjay Pathak, Uttar Pradesh (2015, August)

Pathak was killed in Fareedpur. He was a stringer for a local Hindi daily. A police team on patrol duty found two people dragging Pathak’s dead body on Station Road in Fareedpur. They caught one of them and the other managed to flee. A charge sheet has been filed but a conviction is yet to be secured.

With a cynical public that generally views journalists with scepticism and dismisses them as “presstitutes”, there’s an urgent need to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the press in India. Especially in regional news, journalists are vulnerable and frequently find themselves wedged between local power brokers, with little support from their employers in case of stringers. Fortunately, India does still have a media that regularly pushes hard at the barricades it faces and demands the freedom to report news that may make the establishment uncomfortable. However, we would do well to remember that this freedom doesn’t always extend to the reporters who are working on the ground, far away from the glamour and bright lights of urban Indian journalism.

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