Authorities in India’s Bihar state should credibly investigate and swiftly bring to justice all those responsible for the murder of journalist Dharmendra Singh, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Three men on November 12, 2016 shot Singh, a reporter for the national, Hindi-language newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, near his home in Sasaram, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Ajit Kumar, a local journalist and a friend of Singh’s, told CPJ. Singh died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital in the city of Benaras, Kumar said.
Singh’s colleagues said the journalist’s work could have been the motive for his murder.
“[Singh] used to report fearlessly about the illegal stone-cutting that’s [been] going on in the Sasaram district for years,” Arun Pandey, political editor of Dainik Bhaskar in Patna, the state capital of Bihar, told CPJ. “Whenever the administration found a nexus between [police] officials and this stone-cutting mafia, Dharmendra used to write about it. So we think that it is because of his reporting that he lost his life.” Pandey said that he and his colleagues at the newspaper did not know of any threats Singh might have received before his murder.
Kumar, Singh’s friend, told CPJ that Singh’s family told police investigating the crime that they believed that two jailed men who blamed the reporter for their convictions had ordered the murder: “Because he was a crime reporter, [Singh] had good relations with police officers. Criminals…thought he was a police informer.” Kumar said Singh had told police that one such man might try to harm him. Before Singh died, Kumar said, the journalist told his nephew that a jailed man who blamed the journalist’s reporting for his conviction was responsible for the shooting attack.
“Courageous journalists like Dharmendra Singh play an important role in exposing crime and corruption,” CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said from Washington. “Swiftly bringing everyone responsible for killing Dharmendra Singh to justice would help show that journalists cannot be killed with impunity in India.”
Pandey said that Dainik Bhaskar’s management met PK Thakur, director-general of police in Bihar, to demand a speedy inquiry into Singh’s death. Pandey said that the police chief promised that a special team would investigate the murder. A report in The New Indian Express newspaper said that MS Dhilon, superintendent of police in Rohtas district, would lead the investigation. Thakur didn’t respond to phone calls from CPJ requesting comment.
At least one journalist in Bihar had been murdered for his work this year prior to Singh’s death. Rajdeo Ranjan, a journalist for the Hindi-language, national newspaper Hindustan, was murdered in May, CPJ reported at the time. Ranjan’s widow, Asha Devi, said she believed that her husband was killed for his reporting on a lawmaker jailed on charges including murder, illegal possession of firearms, and voter intimidation. At least 27 journalists have been murdered for their work with complete impunity since 1992, CPJ research shows. In a special report published in August 2016, CPJ found that those who report on corruption away from the major urban centers are at greater risk.