The Mumbai high court today gave the local police two more weeks, until 6 July, to produce a report on their investigation into the murder of Jyotirmoy Dey, a crime reporter for the daily Mid Day who was gunned down on the outskirts of Mumbai on 11 June.
Reporters Without Borders is concerned that the Mumbai police are conducting the investigation.
“We think the government should have assigned this investigation to a federal unit right from outset,” the press freedom organization said. “This would have guaranteed a fully impartial investigation and would have demonstrated the government’s determination to solve this case. The Mumbai police are the last ones who should be handling it because Dey had been threatened by one of their former leading members.”
According to a report on the India Times website, the Mumbai police are also investigating their own alleged links with the local “oil mafia.” Dey had been threatened by assistant police commissioner Anil Mahabole over an article referring to Mahabole’s alleged ties with local mafia boss Dawood Ibrahim.
The Mumbai high court rejected a petition submitted jointly by a group of Indian lawyers and journalists for the investigation to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, a federal agency that handles particularly sensitive and important cases.
An investigative reporter who specialized in covering organized crime, Dey was shot by four men on two motorcycles as he was returning to his home in the north Mumbai suburb of Powai on the afternoon of 11 June.
Organized crime reporter gunned down in Mumbai suburb
Reporters Without Borders condemns the murder of Jyotirmoy Dey, an investigative reporter who specialized in covering organized crime for the daily newspaper Mid-Day in Mumbai. He was shot five times in the back by four men on two motorcycles as he was returning to his home in the north Mumbai suburb of Powai on 11 June.
Dey worked for various newspapers including The Indian Express and Hindustan Times before joining Mid-Day to do special investigations, and had been regarded as an authority on organized crime and the local “oil mafia” for more than two decades.
“We offer our condolences to Jyotirmoy Dey’s widow, who is also a journalist, and to his other family members and colleagues, and we urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into his murder, which has all the hallmarks of a premeditated execution,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Recent incidents and acts of violence involving journalists point to a deterioration in the ability of media personnel to operate freely in India. We remind the Indian government of the importance of the media’s role in a democracy, and its duty to ensure protection and justice for all journalists. Dey’s reporting was in the public interest and his death must not go unpunished.”
Dey was gunned down as he was returning to his home by motorcycle in the Powai neighbourhood of Hiranandani at around 3:30 p.m. on 11 June. After his four unidentified assailants sped away on their own motorcycles, he was rushed to the nearest hospital in Hiranandani, where he was pronounced dead.
Initial reports in the local press suggested that his murder may have been carried out by the oil mafia, whose activities he had so often covered. But officials pointed out that Dey had not targeted any particular gang or mafia in his reporting and had not been working on any big story at the time of his death.
Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik said Dey had not filed any complaint about threats to his life. But the Morung Express news website quoted police sources as saying that Dey, who had recently writing a series of articles about the oil mafia, had received threats from “anti-social” elements.
Members of the police may also have been involved in his murder. An assistant police commissioner, Anil Mahabole, was suddenly transferred to an insignificant post on 13 June after reportedly being investigated for possible threats against Dey.
Mahabole was already subject to several investigations, including one for threatening another Mumbai journalist, Tarakant Dwivedi, who was arrested under the Official Secrets Act on 17 May for reporting a security lapse at a military base near Chhatrapti Shivaji station.
Dey and various journalists’ associations recently met the interior minister to complain about Dwivedi’s arrest. The Deccan Chronicle quoted Dwivedi as saying the police commissioner met Dey two weeks before his death, but the subject of their discussion is not known.
Dey was reportedly threatened by Mahabole a few years ago after identifying him as one of the Mumbai police officers with links to local mafia don Dawood Ibrahim.
Dey wrote two books about the oil mafia, including one, “Zero Dial,” which described the relationship between the police and their mafia informants.
Reporters Without Borders released a report on 24 February about organized crime and the fact that it now poses one of the biggest threats to media freedom.