Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in Assam, in northeastern India, to do everything possible to ensure that the murder of Parag Bhuyan – a journalist who was well known for covering different kinds of local criminal activity and who had recently received threats – does not go unpunished.
A reporter for the Pratidin Time media group and the Axomiya Khabar newspaper, Parag Bhuyan was thrown more than six metres when a speeding car deliberately struck him outside his home in Tinsukia district, in Assam state, at around 8:10 p.m. on 11 November. He died of his injuries in a nearby hospital the next morning.
In a statement, Pratidin Time editor-in-chief Nitumoni Saikia said Bhuyan was the victim of a “planned murder” that was probably a reprisal for his coverage of local corruption or the various forms of criminal activity in his district.
The circumstances of his death leave little room for the possibility that it was an accident. Pratidin Time consultant editor Mrinal Talukdar told RSF: “The road was empty and he was talking with another journalist at the roadside when the vehicle suddenly appeared aiming for Bhuyan, hit him and sped off.”
Talukdar said Bhuyan had been threatened by traffickers in illegal timber. “His brother told us that some timber merchants had approached him [the brother] some time back asking him to rein in Bhuyan. But he refused to listen saying that Bhuyan was just doing his job.”
Two journalists killed in four days
“Everything indicates that Parag Bhuyan was murdered in connection with his reporting,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on Assam first minister Sarbananda Sonowal to ensure that the instigators of this shocking murder are brought to justice. We also urge his government to consider proposing a law on protecting journalists so that reporters can investigate criminal activities without having to fear for their lives.”
Bhuyan had recently done stories on illegal mining, illegal trafficking in precious woods, and cattle smuggling. His last story was about an attack on a police officer by a politician who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party at both the federal level and in Assam.
Bhuyan was murdered just three days after Isravel Moses was hacked to death on the evening of 8 November in a suburb of the southeastern city of Chennai as a direct result of being identified by his neighbours as a journalist to members of the local underworld.
India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.