India failing to protect journalists: CPJ

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NEW YORK, Aug 29 (APP): Journalists working to expose corruption in India face “grave dangers”, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media rights body, has found, creating a challenging environment for them.

New York-based CPJ records show that 27 journalists have been killed in India since 1992 and many other cases remain completely unpunished.

“This has created a challenging environment for the press, especially small-town journalists and those reporting on corruption, who are often more vulnerable to attack and whose legitimacy is questioned when they are threatened or killed,” the report said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists found only one case in the past 10 years where a suspect has been charged, prosecuted and convicted for killing a journalist. The suspect, however, was later released on appeal.

“Even if a court hears the case, there will be delays,” the CPJ report said.

Data from government sources show that more than 31 million cases were pending in India’s court system at the end of 2013.

The 42-page report focuses on the death of three reporters — Akshay Singh, Jagendra Singh and Umesh Rajput, who were allegedly killed after investigating graft and corruption.

After his [Akshay Singh] death, I am left alone with the responsibility of taking care of my family, Pakshi Singh told CPJ during a phone call. A year after his death, the journalist’s sister said she still struggles to sleep.

What more can I say? He was the greatest kind of human being, she said.

At the end of the report, the CPJ recommends that governments condemn publicly all killings of journalists, study best practices by other nations that faced similar situations, work to set up a system to provide security, and investigate attacks on the press and freedom of expression.

“No government in India has been an ardent champion of press freedom,” the report said. “Small-town journalists, even if a handful work for big media, will often find themselves alone and abandoned when trouble strikes.”