The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned at the serious lack of progress in the investigation into the death of Umesh Rajput, a reporter with the Hindi daily Nai Duniya, a fortnight after he was murdered outside his home in Chura village, near the state capital of Chhattisgarh state.
Rajput was called out of his home on the evening of January 23 by two unidentified men and shot dead as he emerged. A note left at the site had a message written in Hindi, which said that the murder was the consequence of stories the reporter had been filing.
Since then a local doctor and his assistant have been taken into custody. Two weeks before his murder Rajput filed a story alleging that the doctor was guilty of negligence in performing eye surgery, which resulted in serious post-operative problems for a patient. He had been threatened by individuals believed to be acting on the doctor’s behalf and had filed a complaint with the local police.
Journalists in Chhattisgarh have been agitating since the murder, demanding quick and purposeful investigation. But according to Narayan Sharma, head of one of the journalists’ unions in the state no breakthroughs have yet been made and the interrogation of the two detainees has revealed little.
“The IFJ is distressed at this lack of progress since available evidence seems to suggest that a journalist has been killed directly on account of his work,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“Our worries are compounded by the fact that this murder seems to be part of a pattern of violence against media workers in Chhattisgarh state.”
On December 20, Sushil Pathak, a senior reporter with one of the leading Hindi-language newspapers, Dainik Bhaskar, was shot dead in Bilaspur district of the state. Investigations have since seemingly concluded that this murder was not related to his professional work and may have been caused by a dispute over a real estate deal.
Earlier in the same month, three senior journalists in the southern district of Dantewada were identified by name in a note circulated anonymously among media offices, and threatened with a “dog’s death” if they did not desist from reporting on human rights issues. The note, it was widely believed, originated from one of the vigilante groups that have been armed as part of a counter-insurgency operation against the state’s underground Maoist groups.
“We call on the authorities in Chhattisgarh to investigate all recent incidents of threats and violence against journalists with due diligence,” Park said.
“Circumstances in the state are challenging and demand that journalists be allowed to function in an environment free of fear.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
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