New Delhi, August 13, 2021 – Authorities in India’s eastern Bihar state must fully investigate the death of journalist Manish Kumar Singh, determine whether he was killed in relation to his work, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Singh, a reporter with the Hindi-language privately owned news channel Sudarshan TV, went missing in Bihar’s East Champaran district on August 8, and villagers found his body on August 10, according to local news reports and Sanjay Singh, the journalist’s father, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Police arrested three people suspected to have been involved in Singh’s death, including two journalists, Amrendra Kumar and Ashlaj Alam, and a third person whose name has not been released, according to news reports and Santosh Kumar, the police officer in charge of the investigation, who spoke to CPJ via phone.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for the suspects’ lawyers, or any public statements by the suspects.
“Indian authorities must thoroughly investigate the death of journalist Manish Kumar Singh, determine whether he was killed for his work, and hold those responsible to account,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy executive director. “Bihar state authorities must ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely, and that those who harm members of the press face justice.”
Singh left his home for a meal with Kumar and Alam in the evening of August 8, and posted a photograph with both of them on his Facebook page at about 8:40 pm, according to reports and the journalist’s father.
The journalist’s father filed a police complaint the following day after he was unable to reach Singh on his phone and the journalist’s motorcycle was found in the village where he had gone to meet Kumar and Alam; the complaint named 12 people including Kumar and Alam as suspects, according to news website Swarajya.
Villagers found Singh’s body in a pond on August 10, with his throat slit, eyes gouged out, and body covered with stab wounds, according to news reports. Santosh Kumar told CPJ that Singh’s body was undergoing forensic testing and police were awaiting the results.
The journalist’s father told CPJ that he suspects his son was killed due to his reporting on a local criminal group, saying that Singh’s “body and belongings [were] found in the area that this criminal group operates from.”
He speculated that Kumar and Alam might have been working on behalf of the group to find out details of Singh’s investigation, and demanded that the national Central Bureau of Investigation look into the case.
Police found Manish’s bag, microphone, and Bluetooth devices at Amrendra Kumar’s home, according to reports.
Santosh Kumar told CPJ that he believed the killing could have been prompted by Singh’s work, or due to a property dispute.
Sudarshan TV Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke told CPJ in a phone call that he met yesterday with Nityanand Rai, the national minister of state for home affairs, and urged him to quickly and thoroughly investigate Singh’s death. Chavhanke told CPJ that Rai said police were prioritizing the investigation.
Last week, reporter Chennakeshavalu was stabbed to death in Andhra Pradesh, allegedly by a local police officer whose illegal gambling activities he had covered, as CPJ documented at the time.