New York, August 3, 2015–A correspondent who wrote about corruption for a Bengali-language daily has been reported missing in the Indian state of West Bengal, according to news reports. Chayan Sarkar’s disappearance comes as a number of journalists have been attacked after reporting on corruption around India.
“Reporting on corruption poses tremendous risks to journalists across India,” said CPJ Asia Research Associate Sumit Galhotra. “We call on authorities to aggressively pursue all leads in the search for journalist Chayan Sarkar and to ensure his safe return.”
The family of Sarkar, a correspondent based in the Alipurduar district for the daily Uttarbanga Sangbad, said the journalist had been missing since Sunday morning, according to the news agency the Press Trust of India and Sabyasachi Talukdar, the paper’s editor who spoke to CPJ by phone. The journalist’s bike, notebook, and wallet were found near a railway station, the sources said.
A few hours before he was reported missing, Sarkar had filed a police report in connection with a recent attack on his home. On July 28, dozens of individuals had thrown stones at Sarkar’s home and threatened him verbally about his reporting, according to Talukdar and news reports. Talukdar said the individuals carried flags affiliated with the All India Trinamool Congress party, which rules in the state. CPJ’s calls to the phone number listed on the website of the Trinamool Congress party were not answered.
The attack on Sarkar’s home followed a story published in Uttarbanga Sangbad in which he wrote about a college admissions scandal in the state which allegedly implicated the All India Trinamool Congress in corruption, according to Talukdar and news reports. Sarkar, who has worked for the paper for years, has also written investigative stories on politics, local corruption, land acquisitions, and local mafias.
Dilip Kumar Adak, the deputy inspector general of the Crime Investigation Department, which is the investigative and intelligence wing of the state police, said today that police were unable to say if Sarkar had been abducted, according to news reports. State police on Sunday arrested eight suspects in connection with the case, news reports said. They were all released today, Talukdar told CPJ.
Mamata Banerjee, the state’s chief minister and also the Trinamool Congress party leader, told journalists that an investigation was being carried out into his disappearance, reports said.
Last month, Akshay Singh, an investigative journalist for the private Hindi news channel Aaj Tak, died under mysterious circumstances in Madhya Pradesh following his investigation into the billion-dollar Vyapam corruption scandal in which hundreds of individuals have been accused of rigging exams and giving or taking bribes, according to news reports. Dozens of individuals have died in unclear circumstances in connection with the case, according to news reports.
In June, journalist Jagendra Singh, who reported critically on a member of the ruling party in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was set on fire and later died of his injuries.
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