The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked
at reports that a freelance journalist, Hem Chandra Pandey, was killed in an
armed encounter in which police in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh
eliminated a leader of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), Cherukuri
Rajkumar, alias Azad.
reportedly took place late on the night of July 2 and was reported in the daily
newspapers of July 4.
killed alongside Azad was identified by police as a Maoist cadre until his
picture was published in the press. Babita Pandey in Delhi identified the photo to be of her
husband, Hem Chandra Pandey.
At a press
conference in Delhi on July 4, Babita Pandey
reported that her husband had left for the central Indian town of Nagpur in Maharashtra
state on June 30 for a journalistic assignment and been unavailable on his
mobile phone since then. She has since travelled to Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh, to
claim her husband’s body.
learnt that Hem Chandra Pandey, 30, may have travelled to Nagpur to seek an interview with Azad, who
was then engaged in talks with intermediaries seeking a truce in the escalating
confrontation between Indian security forces and Maoist insurgents.
Journalists’ Union (IJU), an IFJ affiliate, and its constituent unit, the Andhra
Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ), have raised “serious doubts about
the circumstances” of Pandey’s death and demanded “an inquiry by an independent
do so, the APUWJ and the IJU said in a statement, would fuel perceptions that
the killing was an attempt to “frighten and intimidate” journalists in the
performance of their duties.
Chandra Pandey, like any journalist, was well within his rights in seeking to interview
an insurgent leader, especially in the context of ongoing peace moves,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“The IFJ extends
its solidarity to Babita Pandey and the family of the killed journalist, and
welcomes the Andhra Pradesh Home Minister’s announcement of a full inquiry.”
The IFJ urges
that the inquiry be conducted by a fully empowered judicial authority within a
some initial confusion over Pandey’s identity after a person allegedly speaking
on behalf of the Maoist party claimed he was a member of its northern regional
committee. This was swiftly denied by the official spokesperson of the
Pandey was involved in radical
campus politics during his years as a university student in his home state of
Uttarakhand. The organisation he was involved with is part of university life
in many Indian campuses and its political affiliation to a party that has
contested and won seats in India’s
Parliament is transparent.
who also wrote under the officially recognised alias of Hemant Pandey, was a contributor to leading
Hindi-language dailies such as Nai Duniya, Rashtriya Sahara and Dainik Jagaran. A portfolio of his recent writings shows a well-informed
engagement with issues of wide social concern, such as inflation, food security
and climate change. Nowhere does it reveal an advocacy of violence.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
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