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Impunity shrouds murder of 14 Indian journalists since 2010: Free Speech Tracker

A protester holds Gauri Lankesh's photograph
Counterview Desk
The Free Speech Collective, an initiative of journalists, activists and lawyers of India to protect the right to freedom of expression and “vigorously promote free speech and the right to dissent”, in its Free Speech Impunity Indicator, has tracked the status of investigation in the murder of journalists in India, and found that only in one of 14 cases since 2010 there has been some movement towards delivering justice.
A short report, released by the collective on occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which falls on November 2:
Two journalists in India were killed in separate incidents barely two days before the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, 2018. Their deaths take the figure to six this year but even as the number of killings of journalists in India continues to spiral, the rate of conviction remains constant: Zero.
On Oct 30, 2018, a Doordarshan cameraperson, Achutuynanda Sahu, was killed along with two police personnel in a skirmish between the police and an armed Maoist group near Neelavaya village in Dantewada of Bastar district, Chhattisgarh. A reporter Dhiraj Kumar, who escaped after he rolled into a ditch, said that Sahu was riding pillion on a bike behind a jawan. Kumar was on another bike. They were heading to report on a polling station set up in the village for the forthcoming State Assembly elections.
On the same day, Chandan Tiwary, a journalist working for ‘Aaj” a Hindi daily in Chatra district of Jharkhand was abducted and allegedly beaten to death by unidentified persons. On April 6, this year, he had lodged a complaint with police about threats to his life:“Following an expose on irregularities in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, I’ve been threatened with dire consequences by Mahesh Dangi, husband of the local mukhiya…I fear a threat to my life from Mahesh Dangi…”
Achutuynanda Sahu
But no investigation followed, much less any protection for him. Now, police have announced that a Special Investigation Team will be set up to probe his death.
A Free Speech Impunity Indicator (see here) put together by Free Speech Collective, an initiative of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists to monitor freedom of expression in India, tracks the status of investigation in each case. It is also a grim reminder of the tortuous, but dogged, resistance to the silencing of free speech, put up by families, friends and colleagues.
In this, the first of our Impunity Indicator reports, we examine the deaths of six journalists to determine how impunity works in each death. Impunity hounds then, even though each of these journalists killed may have been separated by geography or even the passage of time. We track the status of the investigation into their deaths and determine and the extent of impunity that shrouds their deaths and exactly how far their families and colleagues are from justice and closure.We bear witness to their work, their courage and commitment to uncover the truth, in order to ensure that their killings do not remain mere statistics.
A study of the 30 journalist’ killings in India from 2010, tracked by the mediawatch site, "The Hoot", revealed that there have been arrests in 14 cases, a conviction in one and a closure in one case with no arrests made. In the remaining 14, there has been not even an arrest so far.
Free Speech Impunity Indicator
0. No investigation
1.Investigation; no arrests
2. Investigation; Arrests; Main accused absconding/not charged/released on bail
3. Charge-sheet filed; Trial
4. Judgement: Acquittal
5. Judgement: Conviction
The Impunity Indicator tracks investigation from ground zero (No investigation) to Level 5, where investigations resulted in a trail and a conviction.
We examine the deaths of four journalists in the first half of 2018: Sandeep Sharma, Naveen Nischal and Vijay Singh and Shujaat Bukhari. In March, three journalists – Sandeep Sharma, Naveen Nischal and Vijay Singh – were killed in a gruesome fashion in what were seemingly hit-n-run cases. In June, Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of the Rising Kashmir, was shot dead by two unidentified persons on a bike.
We review the status of investigation of the killing of Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, Karnataka, on September 5, 2017.
We map the status of the case against the accused, Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and his associates, in the killing of Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, 17 years ago.
In all these instances, there has been no conviction. A trial in the case of Ram Chandra Chhattrapati is awaiting judgement.
Here is the Impunity Indicator for each of these instances examined by the Free Speech Collective:
  • Sandeep Sharma: Impunity Indicator 2 
  • Navin Nischal, Vijay Singh : Impunity Indicator 2 
  • Shujaat Bukhari : Impunity Indicator 2 
  • Gauri Lankesh : Impunity Indicator: 2
  • Ram Chander Chhattarpati: Impunity Indicator: 3 
In other words, only one case has gone to trial…for the last 17 years. In three cases, the accused are either not arrested, or the main accused are absconding or are arrested but out on bail. In one instance, the main accused have been arrested.

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