Indian journalist shot and killed in Chhattisgarh state

New York, January 28, 2011–Police in India’s central Chhattisgarh state must investigate Sunday’s shooting murder of Umesh Rajput, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Two masked gunmen shot Rajput, a reporter with the Hindi-language daily Nai Dunia, late Sunday night outside his residence near Raipur district, according to local news reports.

News reports quoted Rajput’s family saying the journalist had received death threats from a health worker after publishing a story two weeks before his death about a man developing an eye infection following an operation. A note threatening to kill him if he did not stop writing was found near his body, the reports said.

The English-language Indian Express daily said police suspected the threats might be a cover for a murder by Maoist insurgents. Violence between the insurgents, government security forces, and state-supported vigilantes has escalated in recent years in the area.

“Authorities in Chhattisgarh must take seriously the possibility that Umesh Rajput was targeted for his work as a journalist,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “India’s poor record of investigating journalist murders is steadily growing worse, a travesty in what is the world’s largest democracy.”

In early December 2010, local media reported explicit death threats to three journalists based in the southern district of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state. The threats appeared to come from a vigilante group fighting the long-running Maoist insurgency in the area. Rajput was not one of the journalists mentioned in the threats.

While India is known for its vibrant, free media, journalists outside major cities continue to confront violence and threats. India ranks 12th on CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free.