The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, today condemned the brutal murder of Prahlad Goala in Golaghat, Assam, on 6 January.
Goala, 33, the Golaghat district correspondent of the daily Asomiya Khabar, was the father of a 14-month old daughter.
“Prahlad Goala’s heinous murder once more highlights the fact that investigative journalists doing their job are at grave risk from the forces they attempt to expose. This murder must be condemned in the strongest terms, and the guilty immediately brought to justice,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren, who mourned the first death of a journalist this year.
Goala was reportedly killed by unidentified assailants who waylaid him at Thuramukh, about 10 kms from Golaghat town, when he was returning home from work.
Goala had exposed the illegal felling of trees in the Nambor reserved forest, and had reportedly attracted the ire of the ranger in charge, KZ Zaman Jinnah.
According to Atanu Bhuyan, editor of Asomiya Khabar, Goala had received threats from the forest ranger for the past several weeks for reporting on illegal felling of trees by a criminal gang which was allegedly patronised by Jinnah. Bhuyan added that six days before Goala was killed, the ranger had threatened Goala’s father and asked him to “control” his son.
Sources said that Goala, traveling on a motorbike, was most probably hit by a vehicle, after which he was attacked with steel rods, wooden sticks and axe, as injuries on his head, legs and body showed that he was not killed in head-on collision. Goala’s body was spotted by a journalist with daily Aji, who reported it to the police.
The police have arrested two persons wearing blood stained clothing as they were attempting to run away from a forest camp close to the spot where the incident occurred.
Forest ranger Jinnah has also been arrested for his involvement in the murder, acting on a complaint by Goala’s wife who alleged that her husband had received threat phone calls for reporting on corrupt practices prevalent in the Nambor forest range.
The Journalists Union of Assam and Golaghat District Journalists Association have condemned the murder and urged the government to ensure the security of journalists. A protest meeting held at the Guwahati Press Club on 11 January under the banner of Journalists Action Committee condemned the state forest department and the state government for trying to safeguard the culprits and demanded a judicial inquiry of the gruesome murder.
The Journalists Union of Assam, an affiliate of Indian Journalists Union (affiliated to the IFJ) has decided to organize a protest rally in front of the Assam Legislative Assembly stated to be held at the beginning of February.
“While the prompt action by the police is a step forward, the guilty must be brought to book, to convey the message that those who attempt silence journalists for investigating and reporting the truth cannot succeed,” said Warren.
For more information please contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries