This May, over a period of less than 24 hours, two journalists were killed in India in two separate incidents. The death of Rajdeo Ranjan, the bureau chief of Hindustan newspaper and Akhilesh Pratap Singh, a journalist with a local news channel in Bihar, however, did not garner much prime time news attention.
It, however, firmly put the spotlight on just how dangerous India is for journalists working in the country, a fact, reinforced by the New York based non-profit organisation Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its recent report. CPJ has ranked India as the 9th deadliest country in the world since 1992. As per the report, 40 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992 while doing their jobs.
This year, motive of murder of at least two journalists was confirmed to have been a ‘direct reprisal’ for their work – Rajdev Ranjan of Hindustan Times and Karun Misra of Jansandesh Times. Rajdeo Ranjan, the bureau chief of Hindustan, a Hindu daily, was reportedly shot at close range in the neck and head in May in the Siwan district of Bihar. He was killed near the busy Siwan railway station as he was riding his motorcycle, and had penned several reports on court proceedings against former Siwan MP Mohammad Shahabuddin.
Karun Misra, a journalist with Jansandeh Times, was shot in Sultanpur district in Uttar Pradesh while he was driving home on February 13. Misra had written about a particularly dangerous business in Uttar Pradesh – illegal mining.
Three other journalists, including Singh, were also killed this year, but the exact motive for the death could not be confirmed, with the report adding that ‘it is possible’ they were killed for their work.
In both Ranjan and Misra’s case, the police has made arrests. But when it comes to convictions secured in cases of murder against journalists, the scenario can be described as ‘bleak’ at best. Especially if one considers the fact that 40 journalists have been murdered in India since 1992, with justice being served in only about 4 percent of the cases. In that particular case as well, the CPJ report said, the suspect was released on appeal.
In most cases, either the police is unable to find leads or the accused are let off by the courts on account of lack of evidence. In a country that prides itself on its democratic values, this trend is truly shocking, suggesting just how lightly we take lives of our journalists to be.
Press Councils from around the country have asked for a nationwide law to address issues of safety and security for journalists, but successive Indian governments have failed to do anything in the regard. Unless this changes, India should think twice before calling itself a democracy.
Featured image for representation only. Image credit: Getty/Reuters/Desmond Boylan