New Delhi, July 1, 2021 — Authorities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh must conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the assault of journalist Pateshwari Singh and ensure that those responsible are held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 7:30 p.m. on the evening of June 29, a black SUV hit Singh from behind while he was driving his motorcycle in the Uttar Pradesh city of Ayodhya; five or six men then exited the vehicle and beat Singh with batons and iron rods, threw both of his cellphones to the ground, and fled when passersby arrived at the scene, according to news reports and Singh, who recounted the attack in a video posted to Twitter.
Singh, the bureau chief of the Bharat Kanak newspaper and the Ayodhya correspondent for the Jan Sandesh Times newspaper, said in the video that the attackers cited his reporting on Indra Pratap Tiwari, also known as Khabbu Tiwari, a local lawmaker with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and Vikas Singh Deogarh, Tiwari’s associate, saying, “You write against Vikas Singh Deogarh and Khabbu Tiwari. We will not let you live.”
Singh said that he recently published articles critical of the alleged lack of development in Tiwari’s constituency and had previously been approached by an unknown man who threatened to “punish” him for that writing, according to The Telegraph.
Tiwari denied any involvement in the assault, saying, “I don’t know the journalist. They are free to write against me. I am into politics and have not committed any crime,” according to that report. CPJ texted Tiwari for comment, but did not receive any reply. CPJ was unable to find contact information for Deogarh.
“The brazen assault on Indian journalist Pateshwari Singh is unacceptable, and Uttar Pradesh authorities must leave no stone unturned in holding the perpetrators and those responsible for planning the attack to account,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director, in New York. “Authorities in Uttar Pradesh must show that they are serious about ending impunity for attacks on journalists.”
Singh, who can be seen bleeding from his head in the video posted to Twitter, was admitted to a local district hospital and then shifted to a private hospital for treatment for head injuries, according to The Indian Express.
Following the attack, Vijay Pal Singh, Ayodhya superintendent of police, issued a video statement announcing that police had opened an investigation into the incident. City Circle Officer Palash Bansal told The Indian Express that police were examining CCTV footage and were investigating possible motives for the attack.
CPJ texted Pal Singh for comment, but did not receive any replies.
In the video posted to Twitter, Singh said that the police previously launched a criminal investigation into him over his reporting on Tiwari and Deogarh; he said the investigation was based on false allegations.
The alleged assault comes days after the death of Uttar Pradesh journalist Sulabh Srivastava and state authorities’ opening criminal investigations into journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, and Mohammed Zubair, as CPJ has documented. Last year in Uttar Pradesh, journalist Rakesh Singh died of burn injuries after his house was set on fire, allegedly by a local politician unhappy with his reporting, and Shubham Mani Tripathi was shot and killed after reporting on a land dispute, according to CPJ research.