Abducted by men on a motorcycle on the morning of 29 October, Chandan Tiwari was found beaten unconscious several hours later in a forest about 100 km from his home, and was pronounced dead when his body was brought to a hospital.
Aged 32 and a reporter for the Hindi-language newspaper Aaj, Tiwari had filed two reports with the police in the past six months about the threats he had received. His father said that in the most recent complaint, two months ago, Tiwari had reported fearing reprisals by members of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a Maoist splinter group he had criticized.
Tiwari gave more details in the earlier complaint, filed on 6 April. He said that, after writing about financial irregularities in the way a federal housing programme for the rural poor was being implemented locally, he was warned that he would suffer “dire consequences” if he continued to cover the story.
After obtaining a copy of the complaint, the Hindustan Times reported that Tiwari had named the three people who had threatened him, one of whom was the husband of the mukhiya (village chief). The police did not, however, take any steps to protect Tiwari.
“We call on the police to do everything possible to find those responsible for Chandan Tiwari’s horrible murder, both the perpetrators and instigators,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Above all, the federal government must take proper measures, together with the governments in each state, to ensure that effective protection is finally provided to journalists who report death threats to the police.”
Six journalists killed this year
Tiwari is the second journalist to be murdered in Chatra in the past two years. After TV reporter Indradev Yadav’s murder in Chatra in May 2016, the police concluded that those responsible were linked to the Tritiya Prastuti Committee – the same Maoist faction named in one of Tiwari’s complaints – even if the investigation was dogged by uncertainties.
After another death yesterday, the number of journalists killed this year in India now stands at six. Yesterday’s victim was Achyutananda Sahu, a TV cameraman who was killed in a shootout between police and Maoist rebels in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued an “incident report” in July about the threat to India’s position in the World Press Freedom Index because several of the indicators used to calculate a country’s ranking, including the “acts of violence against journalists” indicator, have registered a marked deterioration in India since the start of the year.
India is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Index but, with the number of journalists killed this year now standing at six, it is likely to fall even further in the 2019 Index.