The third murder of a journalist in the last eight months in India’s eastern Bihar state on January 3, 2017 illustrates the danger of allowing such crimes to continue to be met with impunity, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today as it urged authorities to fully investigate the case.
Unidentified men gunned down Braj Kumar Singh, a journalist for a Hindi daily, yesterday evening in Bihar’s Samastipur district.
Initial reports indicated that police believed Kumar to have been targeted due to a property dispute, but IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis urged authorities not to rule out any theories in the killing prematurely.
“It is imperative that authorities consider every possible angle in this murder, including the journalist’s work,” he said. “Three journalists have now been shot to death in Bihar in under eight months. If authorities fail to bring everyone involved in these crimes to justice, it sends a chilling message, both to those who would use violence to silence their critics and to journalists who may find themselves targeted.”
Kumar is the third journalist killed in Bihar since May 13, when Rajdev Ranjan, chief of a national daily Hindustan’s bureau in Siwan, was gunned down. A local political strongman and former politician, Mohammad Shahabuddin, has been accused of masterminding the murder by a 22-year-old hit man, but the case, which India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over from local authorities, remains under investigation.
Late last year, Ranjan’s widow reported having received a telephone call threatening her with death if she continued to pursue a case against Shahabuddin.
On November 12, three unidentified gunmen shot Dharmendra Singh, a reporter for the national Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, in the town of Sasaram. Singh, 35, was walking near his home and had stopped at a roadside tea stall when he was shot at close range by motorcycle-borne assailants.
In late November, police said that one man admitted involvement in the killing but denied pulling the trigger. He alleged that a colleague killed Singh at the behest of an imprisoned gangster who was angry over Singh’s articles on a local stone and mining mafia.
Kumar is also the second journalist to die in India so far this year. On January 2, Hari Prakash was found dead in Jharkhand state, which borders Bihar to the south, two days after going missing. Police are currently investigating whether the case was a suicide or murder related to his part in a love triangle.