In five years until 2019, India has recorded at least 198 serious attacks on journalists. Forty journalists have been killed in these attacks, with the deaths of 21 of them linked directly to their work. And nobody has been convicted for these attacks yet. These are some of the disturbing findings of a study, Getting Away With Murder, published by the journalists Geeta Seshu, Urvashi Sarkar and others with support from the US-based Thakur Foundation, which works in the areas of public health, right to information, and civil liberties.
The study covered 63 incidents where journalists were attacked because of their investigative work. “FIRs were lodged in only 25 cases,” the study says. “In 18 of these, the case hasn’t progressed beyond the registration of FIR. Chargesheets were filed in three cases but the process stalled thereafter. In only four cases, a trial has commenced.”
The study points out that women journalists are increasingly being targeted. Women journalists who covered the Sabarimala temple agitation in Kerala, for instance, were specifically targeted.
Among the case studies covered by the study are the assassinations of Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka and Shujaat Bukhari in Kashmir. While the trial for Lakesh’s murder is yet to begin two years after her murder, Bukhari’s case remains unsolved. The murder of Ramchandra Chhatrapati, the journalist who reported on how young women were being sexually exploited in Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s ashram, also finds mention in the report.
From providing financial assistance to the families of the slain journalists to reaching out to those under attack to demanding the government take strict action in such cases, the study offers a series of recommendations to make India a safer country for journalists.
Speaking about the study, Seshu said, “The report is an indictment of the pathetic state of justice delivery in India. But the hope and resilience of several journalists who were attacked and the families of those killed is humbling. We need to respond collectively to secure justice for journalists. I purposely focused on journalists attacked because of their investigative work. So if they are silenced, their stories are suppressed.”