The Indian media have been in mourning since gunmen on a motorcycle shot Gauri Lankesh, 55, as she opened the door to her home on the night of 5 September. She was killed by at least two shots to the chest and one to the head, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
The police have not said how many gunmen they think were involved, but they currently estimate that she sustained seven gunshot injuries.
“We firmly condemn this terrible murder, which has deprived the media of a tough and determined champion and has deprived India of a voice that was fundamental for the country’s democratic life,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We take note of the determination of the local authorities to investigate this murder and we encourage them not to neglect the possibility of a political link. Gauri Lankesh was on several occasions the target of the ruling Hindu nationalists and their supporters, because she categorically refused to submit to the self-censorship that is eating away at India’s media.”
The editor of Lankesh Patrike, a tabloid founded in 1980 by her father, P. Lankesh, she was well known for her defence of women and her outspoken criticism of the caste system, conservatism and Hindu nationalists.
She was the target of two libel suits by members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s leading Hindu nationalist party. But she never bowed to judicial pressure and her colleagues described her as courageous and forthright journalist.
The three-year-old Modi administration has been trying to banish all “anti-nationalist” discourse from the Indian press. Journalists who refuse to censor themselves are the targets of defamation suits or are prosecuted under section 124A of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment.
Karun Misra of the Jansandesh Times and Ranjan Rajdev of the Hindustan Daily were both killed by gunmen on motorcycles in 2016 after covering sensitive stories such as illegal mining and judicial proceedings against a former parliamentarian.
Five journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2015. They include Jagendra Singh, who died from the severe burn injuries he sustained during a search of his home that police carried out in the presence of a government official.
India is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.