New Delhi, September 7, 2023—Authorities in the Indian capital of Delhi must swiftly and impartially investigate the arson attack on the home of journalists Khushboo and Nadeem Akhtar, as well as the threats of death and rape, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
The Akhtar sister and brother team run Pal Pal News, a YouTube-based political affairs channel with more than 2.1 million subscribers. Akhtar told CPJ that she believes the attack was retaliation for Pal Pal News’ critical coverage of the challenges faced by Indian Muslims and other underrepresented groups, including vulnerable caste groups, farmers, and tribal communities.
“Delhi police must conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the arson attack on the home of journalists Khushboo and Nadeem Akhtar and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Kunāl Majumder, CPJ’s India representative. “The rising level of retaliation against Indian journalists covering the plight of minority communities is alarming. Khushboo and Nadeem Akhtar must be allowed to report without fear of violence or reprisal.”
Akhtar told CPJ that many religious items, including copies of the Quran and Ramayana, were taken out of a locked cupboard and burned before the perpetrators set the house on fire. The incident came to light when neighbors noticed smoke emanating from the third floor of the house and alerted Akhtar, who had relocated with her family to a different home last year. By the time she and her brother arrived at the scene, the house had been reduced to ashes.
Akhtar has recently received threats, including some involving death and rape, through social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, primarily over her journalistic work covering violence and discrimination against Muslims, according to the journalist and a copy of her complaint to the police, which was reviewed by CPJ. Her brother has also received death threats, Akhtar said.
Darshan Lal, station house officer of the Sultanpuri police station, where Akhtar filed her complaint, told CPJ via text message that police are still investigating the arson.