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Three Indian journalists killed in One Month

Hindu-Muslim clashes in Muzaffernagar (Pic courtesy CPJ)  

The rape of a female photojournalist and the deadly assault on her male colleague in an abandoned mill in Mumbai, India on August 23 rightly received international condemnation and led swiftly to arrests by the Indian police. Within the last month however, there have been at least three other journalists killed in different parts of northern India, which have, unfortunately, not received the publicity they warrant.

The reasons for the killings the journalists ranged from one whose writings abhorred superstition in favour of rational thinking, to another who was killed while covering Hindu-Muslim clashes, while the third was targeted by criminal elements because he was reporting on corruption.

 On September 07, Rajesh Verma, a stinger reporting for IBN7 television station was shot dead while covering clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the North Indian city of Muzaffernagar, in Uttar Pradesh, which have since killed 27 people. Committee to Protect Journalists said there is no identification yet of Sharma’s killer/s.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) quoting its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of India, said that two journalists were killed: Sharma and another journalist who was identified by only one name – Israr.
“Both had been assigned to cover the meeting and seem to have been attacked with deliberate intent. Rajesh Verma was shot through the chest and Israr died of serious injuries inflicted by blunt objects,” IFJ said.
However, the Vienna-based International Press Institute said Israr was killed in a separate incident. IPI said, “In the separate case of violence, Israr was beaten to death in the Thana Sikhana area in northern India.”
But all agree they were killed while covering an agitation by around 5000 farmers who were ordered to disperse by the police turned violent. The farmers’ agitation has been fuelled by a video, purportedly showing two Hindus being lynched by Muslims, news sources said. The video is claimed to be a fake.
IPIPress Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said: “The Indian authorities must carry out an immediate investigation and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Impunity in killings of journalists raises serious doubts about India’s democratic institutions…”
Meanwhile, on August 23, Rakesh Sharma was killed in the town of Bakewar in the Etweh District also in Uttar Pradesh. Sharma reported to the Hindi-language daily Dainik Aaj.
Reporters without Borders (RSF), quoting Nation News Channel journalist Vikas Sharma said, ‘His reporting on criminal groups were the reason for his murder.’ Rakesh Sharma had repeatedly written about the criminal groups operating in Etawah and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh.”
Commenting on the Sharma killing CPJ’sExecutive Director Joel Simon said, “We call on Indian authorities to swiftly investigate the motives behind this murder and bring the perpetrators to justice. India has long been known for its vibrant and diverse press, but it is increasingly gaining an international reputation as a violent place for journalists to work.”
There are no reports yet of Sharma’s killers having been arrested.
Preceding that, on August 20, Narendra Dabolkhar, editor of the Marathi-language weekly magazine Sadhana was shot dead in Pune, Maharashtra. The Sadanha covered religion, caste and politics. It debunked superstition, prevalent in many parts of India, by promoting scientific and rational thinking.    
“The editor’s murder comes days after the Maharashtra state government said it would introduce a controversial anti-superstition bill, according to reports. Dabholkar had spent several years campaigning for legislation to ban fraudulent and exploitative superstitious practices, which are still widespread across India. He had also founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith), a group that encouraged social reform in India,” CPJsaid.
CPJ says 29 journalists have been killed in the line of duty in India from 1992, when the organisation started maintaining records.