Explosive device kills photo-journalist in eastern India
A reporter for the main daily newspaper in eastern India’s Odisha state has been killed by an improvised explosive device that was probably planted by Maoist rebels active in the region. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for those responsible to be identified and brought to trial in order to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
Rohit Kumar Biswal, a reporter and photographer for the Odia-language newspaper Dharitri, was killed instantly when the IED exploded at around midday on 5 February near Karlakhunta bridge in Kalahandi district, about 400 km west of Bhubaneswar, the state capital.
Biswal apparently trod on the IED as he went to photograph posters placed on trees urging voters to boycott local elections for “panchayats” (village councillors) due to be held on 16 and 28 February. Several local media said the device was probably left by members of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which is waging a medium-intensity guerrilla insurrection in the region.
Kalahandi police superintendent Sarwan Vivek said the device may have been planted there with the aim of targeting policemen when they went to tear down the posters.
“We strongly condemn the shocking murder of Rohit Biswal, who paid with his life for wanting to inform his fellow citizens about the latent conflicts in Odisha,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Indiscriminate violence by CPI-M rebels was clearly the cause, but the responsibility of the local authorities who failed to secure the site should also be examined. We call for an independent investigation into the failings and culpability of those involved so that such a tragedy does not happen again.”
This is not the first time that a journalist has been the collateral victim of the latent conflicts in eastern India between local authorities and various Maoist insurgent groups, who are also called “Naxalites” after the name of the village where the movement was born.
As RSF reported at the time, TV cameraman Achyutananda Sahu was killed in a Maoist ambush while following a police patrol in Chhattisgarh, the state immediately to the west of Odisha, in November 2018.
India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.