Washington, D.C., January 11, 2019 – India’s Central Bureau of Investigation obtained convictions today in the 2002 murder of journalist Ram Chandler Chaterpatti, editor of the Hindi-language newspaper Poora Sach, according to news reports. The CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana state, convicted Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, head of the religious group Dera Sacha Sauda, and three of his followers, Krishan Lal, Nirmal Singh, and Kuldeep Singh, on charges of murder and criminal conspiracy.
“Even after 16 years, convictions in the murder of journalist Ram Chandler Chaterpatti are a welcome development,” said Steven Butler, Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator. “India has a terrible record pursuing the killers of journalists but perhaps this success in the courtroom will spur authorities to seek justice in other cases.”
Chaterpatti was gunned down on October 24, 2002, and died several weeks later. His killing came after his paper had published an anonymous complaint about the sexual abuse of women followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, according to reports. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is already in prison, serving a 20-year sentence for rape that was handed down in 2017. According to Hindustan Times, sentencing in the murder case is expected to be announced on January 17.
Since 1992, 35 journalists in India were murdered in retaliation for their work, according to CPJ research. Thirty-three of those murders were carried out with complete impunity.