India should conduct thorough investigation into journalist’s death

New York, July 6, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Indian authorities to fully investigate the death of a local TV journalist in Madhya Pradesh state on Saturday. The family of Akshay Singh has called for the federal Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the case.

Singh, 38, an investigative journalist for the private Hindi news channel Aaj Tak, died on Saturday from what doctors said was a heart attack. Singh, who was conducting an interview, drank from a cup of tea and began coughing and frothing at the mouth, according to reports. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was declared dead.

Doctors are examining Singh’s body to see what led to the heart attack, news reports said. The journalist’s employer and family members have asked that the results be sent and examined outside the state, according to news reports.

Singh was investigating the death of a woman tied to a billion-dollar corruption scandal in the state. Police, who uncovered the scam in 2013, have accused hundreds of individuals of rigging exams and giving or taking bribes, according to news reports. The suspects include students, state officials, and members of the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, popularly known as Vyapam, a government body responsible for administering entrance exams for various educational institutions and professions in the state, according to news reports.

Other individuals tied to the case have died in unclear circumstances in recent years, according to news reports. In the past week, according to a Washington Post report citing police, “one of those accused died after having chest pains in prison, another drowned in a village pond and a third died of a liver infection.”

“The Indian government should do its utmost to investigate the death of journalist Akshay Singh in a credible and thorough manner,” said CPJ Asia Research Associate Sumit Galhotra. “Given the recent spike in the number of journalist deaths in the country, authorities should dedicate their efforts to solving these cases and delivering justice where due.”

Police have consistently failed to investigate journalist fatalities in India. At least 35 journalists have been killed in in India since 1992, CPJ research shows. CPJ is investigating the deaths of more than 20 others to determine whether they are work-related. India is ranked 13th on CPJ’s annual Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free.

  • For data and analysis on India, visit CPJ’s India page here.