Watchdog calls out India for failing to protect journalists facing threats
New Delhi: India is failing to help and protect journalists who are facing violent threats or attacks for their work, an international watchdog agency said Monday, noting a pattern of resistance in investigating crimes targeting reporters.
The Committee to Protect Journalists counted 27 journalists killed for their work since 1992, and noted that it was still investigating more than two dozen cases to determine whether those journalists’ deaths were also work-related. Most at risk are small-town journalists investigating corruption, rather than journalists in big cities like New Delhi or Mumbai.
The New York-based watchdog said in a report released Monday that it could find only one case in 10 years in India in which a suspect was prosecuted and convicted for killing a journalist, but that the suspect was later released on appeal.
“Perpetrators are seldom arrested,” said Sujata Madhok, a member of the watchdog. “The torturously slow Indian judicial system, together with corruption in the police force and the criminalization of politics, makes it possible to literally get away with murder.”
The watchdog’s findings are supported by another report, released in 2015 by India’s own media watchdog, the Press Council of India. That report found that even though the country’s democratic institutions and independent judiciary were strong, people who killed journalists were getting away with impunity.
“The situation is truly alarming,” the Press Council said, warning that the trend could hurt India’s democracy, and pressing Parliament to pass a nationwide law ensuring journalists’ safety.
The Committee to Protect Journalists blamed successive Indian governments and local officials for doing little to address a problem that has existed for decades.
It noted that while newspaper reports on corruption scandals made for attention-grabbing headlines, those same corruption investigations tended to end abruptly if an involved journalist was killed.
“No government in India has been an ardent champion of press freedom,” the report said. “Small-town journalists, even if a handful work for big media, will often find themselves alone and abandoned when trouble strikes.”
The report focused on three cases of journalist killings in India, including the death in July 2015 of investigative reporter Akshay Singh, who was working on a story linked to an alleged $1 billion racket for providing jobs and college admissions in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
A month before that, freelance reporter Jagendra Singh died after being set on fire while reporting on allegations of rape and land fraud leveled against a local minister in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
And in 2011 in the eastern state of Chattisgarh, journalist Umesh Rajput was shot dead while investigating alleged medical negligence as well as separate claims that a politician’s son was involved in an illegal gambling business.
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Hindustan Times, 29 August, 2016, http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/watchdog-calls-out-india-for-failing-to-protect-journalists/story-zzL4jSyHhOnCsE79hbQX3I.html