India: Tamil Nadu TV reporter killed because of status as journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates the urgent need for legislation protecting media personnel in India after a reporter for a Tamil-language TV channel in Chennai, the capital of the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, was murdered on 8 November as a direct result of his status as a journalist.
Tamizhan TV reporter Isravel Moses was hacked to death with machetes in the Chennai suburb of Kundrathur on the evening of 8 November after his neighbours identified him as a journalist to members of the local underworld.
A week before his death, Moses did a report for Tamizhan TV in which he investigated local cannabis dealing. This might have been the motive for his murder but his father, Gnanaraj Jesudasan, who is himself a print media reporter, is not convinced.
“His murder is not directly linked to any investigation or report that he broadcast,” Jesudasan told RSF by telephone. Jesudasan thinks it was due to the fact that Moses and his family lived near a plot of land that was seized by a local gang.
The gang delivered stones to the site with which to later start building, but the stones were removed by local residents, resulting in a raid by the gang with a view to identifying and punishing those responsible.
“Although he had nothing to do with it, local residents named my son as the instigator on the assumption that his status as a journalist would allow him to be spared,” Jesudasan said.
But instead, it was because of his status as a journalist that Moses was killed. He had previously notified the police that he was under threat. Four individuals have been arrested since his murder.
“We urge the Tamil Nadu prosecutor’s office to ensure that the perpetrators and instigators of Isravel Moses’s murder are properly brought before a court,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “It is unacceptable for a journalist to be murdered when the police knew there were threats to his safety. We urge the Tamil Nadu government to submit a bill on journalists’ safety as soon as possible so that this kind of mishap does not recur.”
Second journalist killed in 2020
Moses is at least the second Indian journalist to be killed in connection with their work in 2020. Newspaper reporter Shubham Mani Tripathi died after being shot six times, three of them in the head, in a suburb of Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on 19 June. Shortly before his death, he said he feared he could be killed because of his investigations into land expropriations linked to illegal sand mining.
India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.