New Delhi, March 27, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Indian authorities to determine the motive and bring to justice those responsible for the death of journalist Sandeep Sharma in central India's Madhya Pradesh state.
Sharma, a reporter for the local News World television channel in the state's Bhind district, yesterday was driving on his motorbike to a government event when a truck hit him and ran him over, according to the channel's bureau chief, Vikas Purohit, who witnessed the collision, and a report by NDTV. Purohit told CPJ that he took Sharma to the local hospital where the journalist was declared dead from injuries sustained in the crash.
Purohit said both he and Sharma began receiving anonymous death threats last year after publishing two stories in July and October 2017 on alleged police corruption and illegal sand mining.
"Authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Sandeep Sharma and determine if he was targeted because of his reporting," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler from Washington D.C. "This tragic incident may well be a failure of local authorities to provide adequate security to a reporter who had received death threats."
Prashant Khare, the Bhind police superintendent, told CPJ that police were examining CCTV footage and that they had arrested the truck driver who hit Sharma. "A special investigation team has been formed to investigate whether this was an accident or it was a murder," Khare said.
Purohit told CPJ that about 10 days after News World aired Sharma's October investigation, the journalist was "beaten up by a bunch of goons but was saved thanks to the presence of police."
According to Purohit, Sharma complained to the police about the beating, but they did not take further action.
The News World bureau chief also said that he and Sharma wrote letters to government authorities, including the state's inspector general of police, to ask for government protection after they began receiving death threats, but they received no response.
Khare confirmed that police received letters from Purohit and Sharma in December complaining about the threats. He said he had no knowledge of Sharma being beaten up.
"[T]he deputy superintendent of police conducted an inquiry and found that there was no threat to their lives," Khare told CPJ.