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World’s Press Condemns Journalist Killings in India

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have condemned the vicious murders of two journalists in India and have called on the Indian authorities to act swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice.

WAN-IFRA has written to the authorities in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states to demand thorough investigations into the killings of Jogendra Singh and Sandeep Kothari, and to call for better protections for press freedom and the safety of journalists.

The brutal murder of Mr Singh on 1 June in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, reportedly involved six policemen - accompanied by a mob of 20 people – who beat the journalist before setting fire to him at his home in front of horrified witnesses. After suffering serious burns, Mr Singh died on 8 June.

In a declaration made before a judicial officer shortly before he passed away, the journalist identified his assailants and charged they had carried out the attack on behalf of Ramamurthy Varma, a local government minister.

According to local media reports, the journalist had exposed land grabbing, illegal mining operations and sexual assault on women in Shahjahanpur, and had said evidence pointed to involvement of the minister, local police officials, and criminal gangs. The attackers who poured kerosene oil over him and burned him reportedly said they were teaching him “an extreme lesson”.

State police reportedly allowed a story to circulate that Mr Singh had committed suicide, while a witness who had confirmed Mr Singh was in fact set ablaze subsequently changed her testimony following his death. Local reports also suggest there was immense pressure on medical and forensic experts to support the suicide theory, along with Mr Singh’s family.

“We urge you to hand over the investigation to an independent team and to ensure the state government takes harsh actions as prescribed under law against those found to be responsible for Mr Singh’s murder, even – and especially – if the killers occupy high positions in the government,” said WAN-IFRA in a letter addressed to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. “There is also an urgent need for you, as the leader of the government of the most populous state in India, to send a strong message that there will be zero tolerance for those who intimidate and attack journalists.”

The full letter can be read at

Addressing the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh regarding the murder of journalist Sandeep Kothari, WAN-IFRA called for a thorough and impartial investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding his death. Mr Kothari was kidnapped from Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh before his body was discovered in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra on 21 June.

Mr Kothari worked for the reputed Hindi-language newspaper Nai Duniya and was a freelance contributor to a number of publications at the time of his murder. Known for his investigations into the activities of the ‘mining mafia’, he had filed a variety of applications for sensitive government information under the Right to Information Act.

His journalistic work had reportedly antagonised a number of people inside and outside of the state government, and Mr Kothari had faced a barrage of criminal complaints. According to his lawyer, the journalist had been acquitted in 19 of the 20 cases filed against him. Local media reports have suggested Mr Kothari’s murder was a conspiracy hatched by the ‘mining mafia’ that had come under close scrutiny as a result of his journalistic work.

Many journalist groups in Madhya Pradesh have expressed concern over the murder of their colleague, particularly as police and state authorities have attempted to portray Mr Kothari as a criminal before any investigation has taken place.

The full letter can be read here.

For more information on WAN-IFRA’s press freedom work, click here.