Shooting investigation stalls in India

By Madeline Earp/CPJ Senior Asia Research Associate on September 11, 2012 5:55 PM ET

CPJ has been monitoring the investigation into the shooting attack on Arunachal Times journalist Tongam Rina outside her office in Itanagar, capital of Arunachal Pradesh state, which left her hospitalized in critical condition this July. Her recovery is progressing, slowly but surely. The police inquiry, however, is not. 

"The state police have failed to make any headway," Rina told CPJ by email. Though she believes the incident was related to her work as an investigative political reporter, the exact cause is unclear. "I have been extensively covering corruption, women, and political and environmental issues, so I am finding it hard to pinpoint any particular issue which might have triggered the attack," she said.

The same was true in April, when a group of unidentified men broke into the Arunachal Times premises and destroyed equipment. "The police are pointing at the same people who attacked the office [in the shooting investigation]," Rina said. Yet no suspects have been arrested in either case. The state's director-general of police, Kanwaljit Deol, declined to comment on details of the investigation when CPJ reached her by telephone today.

Threats, and subsequent police inaction, are all too familiar in the northeastern state on India's border with China. "A couple of years back, I received a threatening note while I was doing stories on food security in my state," Rina told CPJ. "It was reported to the police but they could not figure out anything. No arrests were made."

Arunachal Times journalists have no choice but to continue despite the obstacles. "Verbal threats are almost routine in our office," Rina said. Overcoming a violent, targeted assault is much harder. In her "Ringside View" column for the newspaper--the only one published since the shooting--she reflects on that challenge. "Many have asked me where do I go from here and when do I come back? I really don't know. Writing is too much of a passion--you don't just let go of it."

Rina and her colleagues are fighting hard to do their jobs. Now it's time for the police to do theirs.

UPDATE: This post has been corrected to reflect that the state director-general of police is female.


Many thanks go to Madeline Earp of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for this article on the shooting of MIA Recoveries supporter and Arunachal Times Associate Editor Tongam Rina: Ms. Rina was kind enough to interview me, when I was in Itanagar in 2008, about how the rights of American families like my own to have the remains of their relatives, killed in World War II in Arunachal Pradesh during combat against the Japanese, returned to the US for a proper burial have been ignored by all the Governments involved...Gary Zaetz, nephew of missing in action US Army Air Force 1st Lt. Irwin Zaetz and spokesperson for the families of my uncle's crew.

Madeline and CPJ,
The news that Rina herself is feeding you with developments speaks volumes of her bravery. Unfortunately, journalists in north east India generally have not had the freedom to report boldly because there is no cushion they can bank upon in the event of reprisals from powerful forces.
But with increased collaboration and visibility provided by groups such as yours, we can bring change.


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