The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is seriously concerned by the growing intolerance over the critical voices and impenetrable impunity fueling threats to journalists in India in recent weeks. The IFJ demands urgent actions from the Indian authorities to ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of those responsible for threatening journalists in order to allow free speech to flourish.
At least four journalists have filed police complaints in Delhi and adjoining Noida after receiving death threats on WhatsApp messaging service and phone calls warning them that anyone critical of the government, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party would meet the same fate as journalist Gauri Lankesh who was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru on September 5.
Mohammad Ali, a reporter with The Hindu daily, chief reporter of Firstpost Debobrat Ghose and Sonal Kapoor of NDTV were among more than a dozen journalists who have received similar messages on WhatsApp. Ali, 33, was quoted as saying: "It shook me up a little, I have since changed my address, I realized staying alone was dangerous."
Ravish Kumar of NDTV has also received death threats such as ‘I’m sad you are alive’ on WhatsApp and wrote an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Deeksha Sharma of The Quint news portal, received threats and online harassment for a video in which she questioned the rape culture and patriarchy in a popular rap song. The Quint took down the video stating that it ‘has voluntarily taken down the video because of the unprecedented harsh abuse it has generated… we do not wish to put our brave reporter to unnecessary harm at the hands of criminals.”
Similarly, in Coimbatore of Tamil Nadu state, the editor of The Covai Post Vidyashree Dharmaraj and reporter AR Meyammai received death threats over Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and VoIP calls for a story on their website about a ritual of parading half-naked pre-pubescent girls published on September 24. The Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) has condemned the threats and harassment calling for swift action by the Tamil Nadu police.
India has already seen three murders; and a sharp rise in the number of attacks and threats on journalists. Senior journalist KJ Singh was murdered in Mohali, Punjab on September 23 while Shantanu Bhowmik was killed by a mob in Tripura on September 20 and no breakthrough in the murder case of Gauri Lankesh has been publicly announced.
The IFJ said: "The IFJ is seriously concerned by the increasing intimidation of journalists in India. The death threats and online harassment of journalists, especially female journalists, should be a matter of serious concern and urgent action by the Indian authorities. The rising number of threats, fuelled by the impunity for crimes against journalists, is threatening freedom of expression a fundamental rights in India.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific