The founder and editor of the Raman Media Network website, Raman has been the target of insults, death threats and even bogus eviction notices on social networks in recent months for investigative reporting that fails to toe the line set by India’s ruling BJP, a party notorious for the online praise its receives from its troll army.
The threats stepped up at the start of August with calls for Raman to be shot after he published an article referring to the concerns expressed by the UN secretary-general about human rights violations in Kashmir. He filed two complains with the police in August, which were ignored, and he filed a third complaint on 22 September
“I am unable to move about and work freely,” he told RSF, explaining that he is afraid to leave home for fear of being attacked.
“The police have an obligation to conduct an investigation when a complaint is filed,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Either the police are being negligent, which is unacceptable, given the situation, or they are deliberately refusing to take Rakesh Raman’s safety seriously, which makes them complicit. Either way, it is high time for them to respond by identifying those responsible for these threats and bringing them to justice, and by providing Raman with police protection.”
After being contacted by Raman on 27 August, RSF wrote to law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and home minister Shri Amit Shah, drawing their attention to the lack of any action by the police after the first two complaints. RSF is still awaiting a response from these two ministers.
The complicit silence from the Indian authorities and BJP’s leaders about the threats by BJP supporters against journalists is a shocking and growing phenomenon in India. After RSF alerted the UN in November 2018 about a surge in death threats against Swati Chaturvedi, a woman journalist, five UN special rapporteurs sent a joint letter to the Indian government calling for action in response to these intimidation campaigns.
RSF had previously issued press releases about a hate campaign against the freelance journalist Rana Ayyub in April 2018, and about the following month’s death threats against NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar in response to his book criticizing the government.
Such hate campaigns against journalists can have tragic results, as was the case with Gauri Lankesh, a newspaper editor who was gunned down outside her Bangalore home in September 2018.
India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.