In response to the repeated violence, Reporters Without Borders calls on the federal government to launch a national action plan for the safety of journalists and for the prevention of dangers and threats to them.
Local officials said the 40-year-old Kothari and a friend were riding a motorcycle on 19 June when they were rammed by a car from which several individuals emerged and abducted the reporter. His burned body was found in Wardha district the next day.
Former legislator Kishore Samrite told media outlets that Kothari had covered illegal manganese and sand extraction for a Jabalpur-based daily and had filed complaints against those involved. This had led to his being “falsely accused” in a dozen criminal cases, Samrite said, adding that Kothari’s family had also been “tormented by mafias.”
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to Sandeep Kothari’s family and friends, and we point out the urgent need for an appropriate response from the authorities to the dangers constantly faced by investigative journalists, bloggers and cyber-activists covering sensitive stories such as local mafia activities” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“This murder, like Jagendra Singh’s earlier this month, could have been avoided if the local authorities had done their job. Kothari was known to be investigating mafias. He and his family should have had police protection.”
Ismaïl added: “We call on the Indian government to launch a national safety plan for journalists. In consultation with the many journalists’ groups working on this issue, the authorities should establish alert and rescue mechanisms. This would also send a strong message of support for media freedom.”
Jagendra Singh died on 8 June from burn injuries received during a police raid on his home in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh. So far everything suggests that police officers deliberately caused his death because of his coverage of illegal activities by certain Uttar Pradesh state officials.
The threats to Singh and his family had been public knowledge before his death but had failed to elicit an appropriate reaction from the authorities.
Ranked 136th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, India continued to register a significant number of media freedom violations in 2014, including physical attacks on journalists.