New Delhi, December 6, 2017--Authorities in India's Uttar Pradesh state must identify the motive in the shooting death of Naveen Gupta, a stringer for the Hindi-language Hindustan newspaper, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Unknown assailants on November 30 shot Gupta dead in the town of Bilhaur in Uttar Pradesh state.
Gupta had just parked his car inside the complex where the office of his brother, Nitin Gupta, is located, and was standing outside his brother's shop when two men called out to the journalist, according to Nitin Gupta who watched the scene unfold.
"They were talking and, at one point, Naveen handed his phone to one of them. He then went to relieve himself and that's when about four other people shot him from across the railway line nearby," Nitin Gupta told CPJ. "The two people he spoke to before just stood there and didn't react at all. Once Naveen was lying on the ground, one of them walked up to confirm whether he had died. He left with his companion immediately afterwards," Gupta said.
Naveen Gupta was shot in the head, face, and chest at 6:07 p.m.; he died en route to the hospital, Nitin Gupta told CPJ.
"Uttar Pradesh authorities must fully investigate the killing of Naveen Gupta and bring those responsible to justice," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney from New York. "Authorities must make clear that they will not allow attacks on journalists to go unpunished."
Gupta worked as a stringer for the Hindustan newspaper for the last decade, and wrote "fearlessly on multiple issues," according to his brother Nitin Gupta. The journalist had frequently written stories on illegal mining along the Ganga River, according to a report on the Hindi-language news website Lallantop.com.
Rishi Shukla, a copy editor at the Hindustan newspaper in Kanpur, told CPJ that it was unlikely Gupta was killed because of his journalism. "He wrote about local civic issues and didn't do the kind of journalism that would get him into trouble," he added. Shukla also said that Gupta did not report on illegal mining along the Ganga River.
Naveen Gupta, who had worked as a journalist for 15 years, had written for other newspapers including the Hindi-language newspapers Swatantra Bharat and Dainik Jagran.
Gupta also ran a distribution agency for the Hindustan newspaper at the time of his death, his brother told CPJ.
"We haven't established what the motive of the murder is. The matter is still under investigation, and we can't disclose any further details," JP Singh, superintendent of police of the Kanpur rural district, under whose jurisdiction Bilhaur town falls, told CPJ.
According to Nitin Gupta, Naveen Gupta had not received threats in the past.
At least 41 journalists have been killed in relation to their work in India since 1992, according to CPJ research. In November this year, CPJ documented how Sudip Dutta Bhaumik, an investigative reporter with the Bengali-language daily Syandan Patrika, was shot dead in Tripura state after he wrote a story in which he alleged financial irregularities in the Tripura State Rifles paramilitary forces.