IPI concerned by spate of recent attacks on Indian journalists
Violent week saw journalists assaulted, two murdered
VIENNA, Sept 3, 2013 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today expressed concern at the climate journalists in India face following a number of attacks in recent weeks.
On Saturday, followers of a religious leader accused of sexual assault attacked journalists in Jodphur as they sought to cover the story, just over a week after two journalists were killed in Uttar Pradesh and another was gang-raped in Mumbai.
The incidents followed the slaying of a prominent anti-superstition activist and editor just days earlier in Pune, as well as the reported murders of two other journalists in Uttar Pradesh since mid-July.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said: “The number of recent attacks on journalists and the degree of violence involved is appalling. We urge authorities in India to bring the perpetrators to justice and to send a firm message that such acts will not be met with impunity.”
The Hindu reported on Saturday that a crowd of supporters gathering outside of the Jodhpur ashram of spiritual guru Asaram Bapu, who stands accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, attacked an IBN7 news crew covering the crowd’s arrival. Reporter Bhawani Deora and his cameraman were both injured and police reportedly have arrested 13 people in connection with the attack.
On Aug. 25, The Times of India reported, the body of a local journalist in Bulandshahr in the state of Uttar Pradesh was found in a gunny bag on the side of a road. The journalist, identified only as Zakaullah, from a town 20 kilometres away from where he was found, went missing on Aug. 23 and bore injuries consistent with having been beaten to death.
Also on Aug. 23, The Times of India reported, journalist Rakesh Sharma was killed in Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. Police said Sharma, a senior reporter with a Hindi-language daily, left home Friday evening after receiving a telephone call and was gunned down on a roadside by assailants on a motorcycle.
Both the Times and The Wall Street Journal – via its India Real Time blog - reported that Zakaullah and Sharma were the third and fourth journalists killed in Uttar Pradesh this year. The Journal, citing local police accounts, said last week that the other two journalists included local television reporter Shashank Shukla, found dead in the state’s Banda district, and an unnamed journalist found dead in the Lakhimpur Kheri district.
Zakaullah’s abduction and Sharma’s killing came one day after a group of five men in Mumbai gang raped a 22-year-old female photojournalist. The BBC reported that the woman, an intern at a magazine, was taking pictures in the evening at an abandoned textile mill accompanied by a male companion when they were approached by a group of men who tied up the companion and took turns sexually assaulting the woman.
The woman was rushed to the Jaslok hospital, where doctors reportedly described her condition as stable, dispute multiple injuries. Police subsequently arrested five suspects, one of whom is a minor.
The incident called to mind a similar attack last December in New Delhi on a 23-year-old medical student that led to protests across the country as India continues to struggle to come to terms with sexual violence against women.
IPI Executive Board Member Narasimhan Ravi, the director of Indian newspaper The Hindu, commented: “It is shocking that the heart of a city such as Mumbai should have pockets of utter lawlessness that would deter journalists from going about their task of reporting without fear.”
On Aug. 20, anti-superstition activist Nardendra Dabholkar, editor of the weekly magazine Sadhana, was gunned down. The magazine on Aug. 30 reportedly received an anonymous letter warning anti-superstition activists of consequences if they did not stop “hurting religious sentiments” of people.