Press groups urge probe into Indian journalist killings

AFP , Sunday 15 May 2016

A coalition of press freedom groups Sunday urged a swift investigation into the murder of two Indian journalists in 24 hours, crimes that heightened fears about media safety and freedom in the country.

Rajdeo Ranjan, local bureau chief for the Hindi-language daily Hindustan, was shot five times by unknown gunmen late on Friday while he was travelling on his motorcycle in the eastern state of Bihar.

On Thursday evening television journalist Akhilesh Pratap Singh was shot dead as he returned home on a motorbike in restive Jharkhand state bordering Bihar.

Police have not yet made any formal arrests in either case.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said the shootings took to nine the number of journalists killed in the past year in India, which has been ranked as Asia's deadliest country for reporters.

"We utterly condemn the killings, demand a speedy and thorough investigation and justice for our colleagues," Brussels-based IFJ president Jim Boumelha said in a statement Sunday.

"The toll of killings in India is undermining press freedom and the government and police must act to bring the killers to justice and put an end to impunity."

The Indian Journalists Union, an IFJ affiliate, said both of the reporters were killed because of their work exposing corruption and criminal activities in the underdeveloped states. Police have similar suspicions.

"Rural reporters, who are the most neglected and poorly-paid journalists in the country, are braving the threats and intimidation of a political and criminal nexus," the Indian group said in the same statement.

The National Union of Journalists of India has threatened nationwide protests if police fail to move quickly to bring those responsible to justice.

India was Asia's deadliest country for journalists in 2015, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

It is also one of the most restrictive for them, ranked 133 out of 180 nations by the group.

Journalists in the world's largest democracy often face harassment and intimidation by police, politicians, bureaucrats and criminal gangs, while scores work in hostile conditions in conflict-ridden pockets of the country.

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