Indian journalist and his family found dead

New York, February 21, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the murder of a senior journalist in India and calls on authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into his death.

Indian journalist Chandrika Rai, his wife, and two teenage children were found bludgeoned to death in their home in Umaria, a town in Madhya Pradesh state in central India, according to news reports. Rai, 42, worked for the Hindi-language daily Navbharat and The Hitavada, an English-language daily.

Rai had been investigating illegal mining in Umaria, which lies in a prominent coal-mining region of the country, Shalabh Bhadoria, president of Madhya Pradesh Union of Working Journalists, a local press freedom group, told CPJ. Other news accounts reported that his murder could be linked to the kidnapping of a local official’s son. At a press conference on the day Rai was murdered, the journalist contradicted a government official’s claim that two suspects in the kidnapping were not guilty, local journalists said. Police also said his death could be connected with a personal land dispute, news reports said.

Bhadoria said the press freedom group was pushing for authorities to hand the case over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s main investigative agency, rather than rely on local police.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the family and colleagues of Chandrika Rai,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Considering that Rai had been working on sensitive local issues, we urge that federal authorities launch a quick and thorough investigation into this case.”

On Monday, journalists in Madhya Pradesh protested the killing by wearing black bands to work, news reports said.

India ranks 13th on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population. At least seven journalist murders have gone unsolved since 1992, CPJ research shows. Reporters covering business and corruption are particularly vulnerable, CPJ research shows.

Editors’ note: This alert has been corrected to reflect that The Hitavada is an English-language daily, not a Hindi-language daily as originally stated.