An article about a local land-dealer, by Indian journalist Shashikant Warishe, was published shortly before the journalist was killed. (Photo: Free Speech Collective)

Indian journalist Shashikant Warishe killed after coverage of land dispute

New Delhi, February 8, 2023 – Authorities in the Indian state of Maharashtra must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Shashikant Warishe and ensure those responsible are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

At about 1 p.m. on Monday, February 6, Pandharinath Amberkar, a land-dealer who was recently the subject of Warishe’s reporting, rammed his SUV into Warishe’s motorcycle on a highway in Maharashtra state’s Ratnagiri district, continued driving for several meters with the journalist trapped under his car, and then fled the scene, according to news reports and a report by the media watchdog Free Speech Collective.

Warishe, a reporter for the Marathi-language newspaper Mahanagari Times, was rushed to a local hospital and then transferred to a medical facility in the city of Kolhapur in a comatose state; he died of his injuries Tuesday morning.

According to news reports, police arrested Amberkar and are investigating him for murder. CPJ was not able to immediately find contact information for Amberkar’s lawyer for comment.

“Indian authorities must thoroughly investigate all those involved in killing journalist Shashikant Warishe, and ensure they are brought to justice,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The Maharashtra government must take steps to protect all journalists working in the state and seek accountability for those attacked or killed.”

In a report published earlier Monday, which CPJ reviewed, Warishe alleged that Amberkar was involved in illegal land grabs and had threatened locals opposed to the construction of an oil refinery.

CPJ emailed Dhananjay Kulkarni, the Ratnagiri district superintendent of police, but did not receive any reply.

Last year, journalists Subhash Kumar Mahto and Rohit Biswal were killed in two separate incidents in India. India has featured on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index—which highlights countries with the worst records of bringing journalists’ killers to justice—every year since CPJ started tracking impunity data in 2008.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its fourth paragraph to show that Amberkar is under investigation for murder.]