New Delhi, June 14, 2018–Indian authorities must ensure that there is a thorough and credible investigation into the murder of Shujaat Bukhari, founder and editor of the English-language daily Rising Kashmir, and bring the killers to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Bukhari was shot and killed today in Srinagar city, in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir state is one of the most dangerous states in India for journalists. According to CPJ research, at least six journalists have been murdered with complete impunity in direct retaliation for their work in the state since 1992. CPJ found in a 2016 special report, “Dangerous Pursuit,” that India’s persistent culture of impunity in the murders of journalists leaves the country’s press vulnerable to threats and attacks.
“Given the number of unsolved journalist murders and the political turmoil in Kashmir, we are concerned whether the Indian authorities will investigate this murder in a timely and effective manner,” Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said from New York. “Until justice has been served, the killing of Shujaat Bukhari will exacerbate the climate of fear in which journalists work in the state.”
Several unidentified gunmen fired at Bukhari this evening when he exited his office in the Press Colony to attend an iftar (the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast) party in Srinagar, according to multiple media reports. He suffered numerous injuries to the head and abdomen, according to a report on the Free Press Kashmir news website. Two police officers, who had been assigned to protect him after an attack in 2000, were also shot, the reports added. All three were rushed to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where Bukhari and both guards succumbed to their injuries, according to news reports.
SP Vaid, the director general of the Jammu and Kashmir state police, said that Bukhari was killed around 7:30 p.m. by multiple unidentified gunmen who were on a motorcycle, according to a live broadcast on NDTV 24×7 news channel. He said police were not aware of any recent threats that Bukhari might have received. Vaid told CPJ that there have been no claims of responsibility for Bukhari’s murder thus far. Manoj Kumar Pandit, a spokesperson for the Jammu and Kashmir police, did not take CPJ’s calls asking for comment.
Prior to working as editor of Rising Kashmir, Bukhari worked as the Jammu and Kashmir state bureau chief of The Hindu national newspaper for 15 years, Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire news website, told CPJ. “He was the most sober, reliable, cautious, and objective of all national correspondents who were reporting Kashmir,” Varadarajan said. “Whenever we compared conflicting accounts of an incident, Bukhari’s was the most credible one. He was that meticulous.”
In 2006, Bukhari escaped an assassination attempt when his attacker’s gun jammed, CPJ reported. In 1996, Bukhari was abducted and detained by militants in Kashmir for several hours, CPJ documented.
In India overall, at least 33 journalists have been murdered in direct retaliation for their work since 1992, according to CPJ research. The country ranked 12th on CPJ’s latest Impunity Index, a measure of countries worldwide where journalists are killed and their murderers go unpunished.