New York, May 23, 2022 – Authorities in the Indian state of Bihar must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On May 20, Mahto was fatally shot outside his home in Sakho village in Bihar state’s Begusarai district, according to news reports and Saurabh Kumar, general secretary of Begusarai District Journalists Association, who spoke to CPJ by telephone. Mahto was returning from a wedding dinner with family members at around 8:45 p.m. when he was shot in the head by four men, who then fled the scene, The Wire reported.
Mahto was a reporter with a local cable station City News, and frequently used Public App, a hyperlocal smartphone-based video application, to post his reports, according to Kumar. Mahto had over 1,300 followers on his Public App account, and his last post was viewed over 29,000 times, according to a review of his page by CPJ.
“Authorities in India’s Bihar state must thoroughly investigate the fatal shooting of journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto, determine whether he was killed for his work, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The Bihar government must take steps to protect all journalists working in the state and seek justice for those attacked or killed.”
Kumar told CPJ that the attack could be related to Mahto’s reporting on the illegal alcohol mafia in the region. In 2018, Mahto was arrested for “false news” after he reported on an incident related to the unlawful manufacturing of local liquor, according to Kumar and The Wire report. Manufacturing and consuming alcohol is illegal in Bihar and a punishable offense under state law.
The police have not arrested anyone, but Kumar told CPJ that a person with a known criminal record had been a person of interest. CPJ could not independently verify this claim. Kumar added that a forensic probe was conducted at the site of the murder on Sunday, May 22.
Begsarai superintendent of police Yogesh Kumar did not respond to CPJ’s phone calls requesting comment.