• Monday, June 17, 2024

INDIA

Press freedom at risk? Vernacular journalist shot dead at home in India’s Bihar

In May, Reporters Without Borders unveiled the 21st edition of its World Press Freedom Index which showed India’s ranking slipping to 161 in terms of press freedom out of 180 nations.

Representational Image (iStock)

By: Shubham Ghosh

IN a shocking incident, a journalist in Araria district of the eastern Indian state of Bihar was shot by some unidentified gunmen on Friday (18) morning, the state’s police said.

The 35-year-old victim, Vimal Kumar Yadav, worked for Dainik Jagran, the largest circulated Hindi daily, the police added. According to them, the killers knocked on Yadav’s door and called his name around 5.30 am and shot him in the chest when he opened the door.

The chief of the local police station reached the spot soon after and probed the matter. Araria’s superintendent of police also reached. The body was sent for post-mortem, the police said. A forensics team and a dog squad were also at the spot, the police said.

Preliminary investigation suggested an old enmity with the neighbours could be the cause for Yadav’s murder, the police added, according to an NDTV report.

Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, reacted to the incident and called it a “dukhad” (sad) one. He asked officials to immediately investigate the crime and asked how a journalist could be killed like that while speaking to reporters in Patna, the state’s capital.

Yadav’s younger brother Kumar Shashibhushan alias Gabbu, who was a village head, was murdered in a similar manner. The former was the main witness in the case and it is suspected that his killing could be linked to it.

According to the NDTV report, Yadav was yet to testify against his brother’s killer(s) and had allegedly received several threats if he did.

The police said it is possible that the accused thought Yadav’s testimony could be critical to the case. The police will investigate the angle, a top police officer said.

Yadav is survived by two teenage children — a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.

The state’s opposition slammed the Kumar-led government over the killing saying it showed “democracy is in danger in Bihar”.

“Criminals are roaming freely while innocent citizens, including journalists, and even police personnel are being killed in Bihar,” Samrat Choudhary, the chief of the Bihar unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party which is in opposition, was quoted as saying by NDTV.

Freedom of press in India, the world’s largest democracy, has come under the scanner in recent times. In May, Reporters Without Borders unveiled the 21st edition of its World Press Freedom Index which showed India’s ranking slipping to 161 in terms of press freedom out of 180 nations ranked. The latest ranking was 11-place worse than the ranking of 150 in 2022.

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