India: Authorities must ensure swift and thorough investigation into murder of journalist
This post originally appeared on the website of PEN International.
Police have arrested three men in connection with the murder of journalist Sandeep Kothari, who was kidnapped and burned to death in the state of Madhya Pradesh over the weekend. PEN calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this brutal murder and to bring all perpetrators to justice.
According to media reports, 40 year-old Sandeep Kothari, who worked for a local Jabalpur-based Hindi daily, was kidnapped from his home on June 19, choked, and set on fire. His charred body was discovered in the neighbouring district of Maharashtra the following evening. According to a number of reports, Kothari was targeted because of his writing about illegal mining in the area, and for refusing to withdraw a court case he filed against individuals involved in the mining racket.
Police officials have said the three men arrested were suspected to be involved in illegal mining.
“This is a horrific reminder of the perils of being a journalist in India. India’s authorities must thoroughly investigate the murder of Sandeep Kothari and all cases of journalists killed in connection with their work,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Program. “It imperative that these investigations are conducted with sense of urgency, that motives are confirmed and that all perpetrators are brought to justice in order to combat the culture of impunity that persists in India.”
India is ranked 136 out of 180 nations in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters Without Borders. Earlier this month, freelance journalist Jagender Singh was similarly set on fire after accusing a state minister of involvement in illegal mining and land seizures in northern India. Singh later died from his burns.
‘”It’s not enough for the murderers of Jagender Singh and Sandeep Kothari to be caught; each person up the chain of command who conspired in their horrific killings must be identified and convicted—and swiftly,” said Karuna Nundy, founding member of PEN Delhi Center.
In May this year, PEN International, in partnership with PEN Canada and the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, released the ground-breaking report Imposing Silence: The Use of India’s Laws to Suppress Free Speech, which documents the ways in which India’s laws fail to protect freedom of speech.