India: Senior journalist killed in road accident

Parag Bhuyan, a senior journalist and vice president of Tinsukia District Journalists’ Association (TDJA), was fatally injured in a road accident on November 11, in Assam’s Tinsukia district. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that the death of Bhuyan occurred under suspicious circumstances and calls for a thorough investigation.

Memorial for journalist Parag Bhuyan. Credit: The Shillong Times

Bhuyan was a senior correspondent of the Pratidin group and a local reporter of Axomiya Khabar. Reports allege the journalist attained medicine from a pharmacy and was talking to another journalist when a vehicle, carrying TATA Xenon tea leaf, knocked down the pair from behind. Bhuyan was flung a distance of 15 feet and suffered severe head trauma, whilst his companion sustained only minor injuries. He was taken to a nursing home where he died the following day.

Police tracked and seized the vehicle, which had immediately fled the scene, and apprehended the inebriated driver James Murah and handyman Raba Bordoloi. On the direction of Sarbananda Sonowai, Chief Minister of Assam, a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) team and forensic experts proceeded to the area to begin investigating the incident.

Bhuyan’s employers have alleged he was deliberately killed for exposing illegal activities and corruption in the area. Jagadish Bhuyan, the journalist’s brother and AJP leader, termed his death “a murder of journalism.” “My brother’s killing was pre-planned. He has been doing a series of reporting, exposing illegalities and corruption around Kakopathar. He had received threats for these reports. Even I was approached by some people to stop him from reporting on cow, coal and timber smuggling,” he stated.

The journalist’s colleagues, the staff of Pratidin Times and opposition Congress have all protested against Bhuyan’s suspected murder. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi questioned the Assam government, posting on social media, “Assam journalist Parag Bhuyan, who exposed the corruption of BJP leaders, was killed under suspicious circumstances. My condolences to the family.”

India has a grim record of at least 55 journalists killed between 2010 and 2020, according to IFJ data. Of the long list of murders and targeted killings, only one case has been resolved.  Since the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, the IFJ has recorded two more attacks on journalists in India. G. Moses, a reporter for Tamilian TV, was hacked to death in Tamil Nadu on November 9, allegedly for his coverage of illegal land grabbing in the area. Vinay Tiwari, a journalist working for local Hindi news website Bundelkhand Times, was seriously injured in an attack by several assailants in the Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh on November 7.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “The continuing harassment, intimidation and killing of media workers in India is an assault on press freedom and severely compromises the safety of journalists in the region. The IFJ offers its condolences to Parag Bhuyan’s family, urging authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident and bring swift justice to the perpetrators.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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