Television

World media condemns murder of newspersons in India

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NEW DELHI: Several organisations within and outside India have condemned the vicious murders of three journalists in India and have called on the authorities to act swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have written to the authorities in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to demand thorough investigations into the killings of Jogendra Singh and Sandeep Kothari, and to call for better protections for press freedom and the safety of journalists.

The Delhi Union of Journalists and the Press Club of India have also asked the government and police authorities to act swiftly to bring the perpetrators to book in the cases of the murders of Jogendra Singh, Sandeep Kothari and Aaj Tak reporter Akshay Singh and to ensure adequate protection to mediapersons.

Aaj Tak reporter Akshay Singh had gone to Madhya Pradesh to probe the Vyapam scam which has led to illegal admissions of thousands of students into higher institutions.

He died in mysterious circumstances soon after interviewing the parents of a girl who had died in similar mysterious circumstances. The 36-year old mediaperson felt uneasy and was waiting for some documents when froth started coming out of his mouth and he collapsed. 

The brutal murder of Jogendra Singh on 1 June in Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, reportedly involved six policemen - accompanied by a mob of 20 people – who beat the journalist before setting fire to him at his home in front of horrified witnesses. After suffering serious burns, he died on 8 June.

In a declaration made before a judicial officer shortly before he passed away, the journalist identified his assailants and charged they had carried out the attack on behalf of UP Minister Ramamurthy Varma.

According to local media reports, the journalist had exposed land grabbing, illegal mining operations and sexual assault on women in Shahjahanpur, and had said evidence pointed to involvement of the minister, local police officials, and criminal gangs. The attackers who poured kerosene oil over him and burned him reportedly said they were teaching him “an extreme lesson”.

State police reportedly allowed a story to circulate that Jogendra Singh had committed suicide, while a witness who had confirmed Singh was in fact set ablaze subsequently changed her testimony following his death. Local reports also suggest there was immense pressure on medical and forensic experts to support the suicide theory, along with his family.

“We urge you to hand over the investigation to an independent team and to ensure the state government takes harsh actions as prescribed under law against those found to be responsible for Jogendra Singh’s murder, even – and especially – if the killers occupy high positions in the government,” said WAN-IFRA in a letter addressed to UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. “There is also an urgent need for you, as the leader of the government of the most populous state in India, to send a strong message that there will be zero tolerance for those who intimidate and attack journalists.”

In a letter to the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan regarding the murder of journalist Sandeep Kothari, WAN-IFRA called for a thorough and impartial investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding his death. Kothari was kidnapped from Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh before his body was discovered in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra on 21 June.

Kothari worked for the reputed Hindi-language newspaper Nai Duniya and was a freelance contributor to a number of publications at the time of his murder. Known for his investigations into the activities of the ‘mining mafia’, he had filed a variety of applications for sensitive government information under the Right to Information Act.

His journalistic work had reportedly antagonised a number of people inside and outside of the state government, and Kothari had faced a barrage of criminal complaints.

According to his lawyer, the journalist had been acquitted in 19 of the 20 cases filed against him. Local media reports have suggested Kothari’s murder was a conspiracy hatched by the ‘mining mafia’ that had come under close scrutiny as a result of his journalistic work.

Many journalist groups in Madhya Pradesh have expressed concern over the murder of their colleague, particularly as police and state authorities have attempted to portray Kothari as a criminal before any investigation has taken place.

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