By Sumit Galhotra/CPJ Asia Program Senior Research Associate
Journalists across India are facing death threats, beatings, and jail sentences, and one has been shot dead in recent months, according to CPJ research on the world's largest democracy.
In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, Karun Misra, the Ambedkarnagar bureau chief of Jan Sandesh Times, was shot dead on February 13. CPJ is investigating to determine if his murder is connected to his work at the Hindi-language daily.
This week Sindhu Sooryakumar, a news anchor in the state of Kerala, told reporters she received thousands of threatening phone calls after hosting a discussion on "Cover Story" last month about a minister's comments on student protests. The journalist received death threats and harassing calls after her number was circulated on social media along with claims that she was a sex worker, police said.
Journalists in Chhattisgarh state are also being harassed. In separate cases last month, BBC Hindi Service reporter Alok Prakash Putul and freelancer Malini Subramaniam fled Bastar district over fears for their safety. Reporting from Chhattisgarh--where journalists Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav are currently imprisoned for their work--poses serious challenges. According to CPJ research, police in this state often pressure, harass, or abuse journalists in an effort to silence critical reporting or to compel them to serve as informants. Meanwhile Maoists have attacked journalists they accuse of being informants for police, CPJ has found.
Journalists in Delhi also face challenges. In early February photojournalist Rahul M told CPJ he was beaten by police and his camera was broken while he covered caste protests. Rahul, who goes by only one name, told CPJ that police surrounded him and hit him with batons. "I kept telling them I am a journalist but they kept beating me. Whenever I tried to go toward my broken camera to take it, they pushed lathis [batons] into my stomach," Rahul told CPJ. The Delhi commissioner of police, Bhim Sain Bassi, did not immediately respond to CPJ's request for comment. A slideshow of images from the day of the attack can be viewed here.
CPJ also documented how reporters covering a controversial hearing at a Delhi court on February 15 were threatened, manhandled, and beaten by crowds of lawyers. Several of the journalists gave accounts of the attack, including Amit Pandey, from the privately owned broadcaster IBN7, who told the press lawyers slapped him, tore his clothes off, and threatened to "break the bones after the phones." Sonal Mehrotra, from the privately owned broadcaster NDTV, told a reporter she feared for her life after 15 men ganged up on her and a fellow journalist.