Reporters Without Borders deplores the death of newspaper reporter Rajesh Mishra, who was attacked and beaten over the head on 1 March in Rewa, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, and died of his injuries the next day. His murder came less than two weeks after another journalist was clubbed to death with his wife and children in the Madhya Pradesh town of Umaria.
“We are very worried but this new outbreak of violence, which highlights the dangers of investigative journalism India,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the Indian authorities to undertake to guarantee the safety of media workers and to assign the necessary human and material resources to ensure that the investigations into these murders are effective. We note the initial results of the investigations in these two cases.”
Mishra worked for Media Raj, a weekly based in Rewa, which is 550 km northeast of the state capital, Bhopal. He had received anonymous phone threats after writing reports about the alleged mismanagement of a number of regional schools owned by Rajneesh Banerjee, the publisher of another Rewa-based newspaper, Vindhya Bharat.
Mishra had gone to a tea stand with Vindhya Bharat editor Anil Tripathi, at Tripathi’s invitation, and while there he was beaten over the head by two unidentified persons who quickly ran off. He was immediately hospitalized and was then transferred to a hospital in Jabalpur, where he died the next day.
Five people have been arrested for the murder, including Banerjee and Tripathi.
Fellow journalist Chandrika Rai, a reporter for the dailies Navbharat and The Hitavada, his wife and two children were beaten to death in their home in the coal-mining town of Umaria on 18 February. Rai’s family said they thought their deaths were linked to his investigative coverage of illegal mining in the nearby Shalabh Bhadoria area. The police have so far made six arrests in their investigation, which is continuing.
In the past 15 months, there has been a disturbing number of murders of journalists in which the motive was clearly or probably linked to their work. Jyotirmoy Dey, 56, an investigative journalist with the newspaper Mid-Day, was shot dead in Mumbai on 11 June 2011. Umesh Rajput, 32, a reporter with the daily Nai Duniya, was gunned down in the east-central state of Chhattisgarh on 23 January 2011. Sushil Pathak, a reporter for the daily Dainik Bhaskar, was shot dead in Chhattisgarh on 20 December 2010.
India is ranked 131st out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.