Since 2014, there have been more than 200 serious attacks on journalists in India. There has not been a single conviction in attacks on journalists in India, targeted for their investigative work.
In the latest spate of attacks in the wake of protests over the passage of
the Citizenship Amendment Bill, journalists in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi
and Karnataka, have been detained, assaulted, their camera equipment
snatched and even banished into a neighbouring state!
Journalists on the frontlines of information gathering in India have been
killed or attacked, some to within an inch of their lives. Further, they
have been rendered defenceless by a systemic failure to deliver justice.
This study on the deaths and attacks on journalists in India between
2014-19 documented at least 40 killings of journalists, 21 of which were
directly linked to their professional work.The study documented 198 serious
instances of attacks on journalists between 2014-19 and at least 36 in 2019
(including the recent attacks on the media in Assam and in Delhi in the
wake of the protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act) till date.
Even as we go to the press comes news of the death of news channel
journalist Jobanpreet Singh in a shooting near Moga, Punjab. His colleague
Gurchet Singh, working for a vernacular daily, was injured in the shooting
and police are still investigating the motive for the killing.
With this, the number of journalists killed in 2019 goes to seven but
preliminary investigations indicate that only one, the killing of K
Satyanarayana in Andhra Pradesh, was linked to the journalist’s
In another instance, senior environmental and wildlife journalist Naresh
Mitra succumbed to injuries after a possible assault on December 9, 2019,
eighteen days after he was found bleeding and unconscious near his office
in Guwahati, Assam. Further verification is difficult at this point, given
the curfew and clampdown on online communication due to the agitation in
Assam over the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Indeed, the turmoil all over the country over the passage of this act has
had its fallout on the media. In an astounding act, Karnataka police
detained seven journalists from Kerala in Mangaluru for ostensibly holding
an accreditation from the neighbouring Kerala, which Karnataka police
considered invalid! After holding them for over seven hours, the
journalists were transported in a bus and dropped to Thalapaddy across the
border in Kerala.
In another shocking incident, Omar Rashid, the Uttar Pradesh correspondent
of The Hindu was detained by police for several hours and subjected to
communal abuse. His credentials as a journalist were questioned, as were
his origins as a Kashmiri journalist. He was let off and police dismissed
it off as a ‘mistake’.
As this study shows, there’s little expectation of accountability or even
redressal of these injustices, given the pathetic record of justice
delivery of the last six years.
As the courageous Asha Ranjan says, speaking of her struggle to secure
justice for the killing of her husband Rajdeo Ranjan in 2016: “The death of
my husband is a matter that should concern all journalists. We keep saying
that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy. This struggle is not only
about the death of one journalist.”
Rajdeo Ranjan was killed after he wrote critical reports about former RJD
MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, currently lodged in Siwan jail. The Central Bureau
of Investigation (CBI) was conducting investigations in the case but in
October this year, without any warning and even without her knowledge, the
case was transferred to the special crime branch under the Bihar
government. Three days ago, after her notice, CBI officials attended a
hearing but did not depose, leaving her in doubt about the future of the
investigation and her struggle for justice.
The pattern of obfuscation and delay was replicated in almost all the cases
tracked by this study. The status of justice delivery for the killing of 20
journalists and 63 attacks on journalists targeted for their investigative
work between 2014-18.
Convictions in the killing of journalists are near-zero. Of the over 30
killing of journalists since 2010, there were only three convictions. The
cases were J Dey, killed in 2011; Rajesh Mishra, killed in 2012 and Tarun
Acharya, killed in 2014. In a fourth case of journalist Ram Chandra
Chhattrapati, killed in 2002, it took 17 years for justice to be delivered
in the life imprisonment order for Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim..
Since 2014, there has not been a single conviction in attacks on
journalists in India, targeted for their investigative work.
Apart from prominent editors and senior journalists like Gauri Lankesh and
Shujaat Bukhari and J Dey, killed in state capitals, a majority of the
journalists killed belong to small towns and villages, working with
regional media as correspondents or stringers. They are primary
information-gatherers on corruption, and unlawful activities of business
people, powerful politicians, police and security forces.
• There were 40 killings of journalists between 2014-19. Of these, 21 have been confirmed as being related to their journalism.
• Of the over 30 killing of journalists since 2010, there were only three convictions. The cases were J Dey, killed in 2011; Rajesh Mishra, killed in 2012 and Tarun Acharya, killed in 2014.
• In a fourth case of journalist Ram Chandra Chhattrapati, killed in 2002, it took 17 years for justice to be delivered in the life imprisonment order for Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim
• The study documented 198 serious attacks on journalists in the period between 2014-19, including 36 in 2019 alone.
• Journalists have been fired upon, blinded by pellet guns, forced to drink liquor laced with urine or urinated upon, kicked, beaten and chased. They have had petrol bombs thrown at their homes and the fuel pipes of their bikes cut.
• Journalists covering conflict or news events were specifically targeted by irate mobs, supporters of religious sects, political parties, student groups, lawyers, police and security forces.
• Attacks on women journalists in the field were found to have increased. The targeted attacks on women journalists covering the Sabarimala temple entry were sustained and vicious. A total of 19 individual attacks of women journalists are listed in this report. • Perpetrators of the killings and attacks included government agencies, security forces, political party members, religious sects, student groups, criminal gangs and local mafias.
• This study followed up on 63 attacks against individual journalists between 2014-18, who were targeted for their investigative work.
• Of the 63 cases studied, First Information Reports (FIRs) were lodged in only 25 cases. And in 18 of these, the case has not progressed beyond the registering of the FIR.
• In 18 other cases where journalists did file complaints (but no FIRs registered), counter complaints were filed in three cases. In 12 cases, there is no information at all and even the affected journalists do not know what happened post the attacks.
Please download the report here