Indian journalist Ashutosh Negi is interviewed after his release on bail on March 13, 2024.
Indian journalist Ashutosh Negi is interviewed after his release on bail on March 13, 2024. Police have accused him of trying to "sow anarchy" with his reporting on a teenager's murder. (Screenshot: Jago Uttarakhand Weekly/Facebook)

Indian journalist Ashutosh Negi arrested for reporting on murder investigation

New Delhi, March 14, 2024—Indian authorities must drop the charges against journalist Ashutosh Negi, who was arrested in connection with his reporting on a murder investigation in the northern state of Uttarakhand, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Negi, editor of the weekly Hindi newspaper Jago Uttarakhand, was arrested on March 5 from his home in Pauri town, 94 miles (151 kilometers) from the state capital of Dehradun, according to multiple news outlets and his lawyer, Navnish Negi (no relation), who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Although Negi was released on bail on Wednesday, he faces accusations under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes law, based on a complaint from an unnamed individual and allegations of a scuffle with police officers during his arrest, those reports added.

Immediately after Negi’s arrest, Uttarakhand Director General of Police, Abhinav Kumar, issued a statement accusing the journalist of being “part of a conspiracy” to “sow anarchy and discord in society” through his reporting and activism around the police investigation into the killing of 19-year-old Ankita Bhandari in September 2022, news reports said.

Bhandari, a receptionist at a resort owned by the son of a former ruling Bharatiya Janata Party official, went missing and was later found dead. Despite initial arrests in connection with the case, including that of the official’s son, concerns persist over the pace and transparency of the investigation. Negi has extensively reported and shared his views on the police investigation on his news website and social media platforms, according to CPJ’s review.

“The police chief’s statement makes it abundantly clear that journalist Ashutosh Negi is being targeted for his work as a journalist and activist,” said Kunāl Majumder, CPJ’s India representative. “Authorities in Uttarakhand must drop all charges against him and ensure that the media can perform their duties without fear or interference.”

Navnish Negi accused the police of misusing the law to target his client and told CPJ that the accusation against Negi for violating Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes law was found to be false during a governmental inquiry 1½ years ago. A fresh allegation was filed against Negi in January to harass him, Navnish Negi claimed.

Kumar did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comments.