Acharya, a stringer for Kanak TV, a local Oriya-language TV channel, and a reporter for Sambad, a local Oriya-language newspaper, was found with his throat slit and injuries to his chest in the eastern Indian state of Odisha on May 28, 2014, according to reports. Kanak TV and Sambad are owned by the Odisha-based Eastern Media group.
Police said assailants had stabbed Acharya the night before in a desolate area of Khallikote town in Odisha as he was on his way home from work, according to reports.
Immediately following the murder, Kanak TV Editor-in-Chief Soumya Ranjan Patnaik told CPJ that he was not aware of any threats made against the journalist. Subsequent reports said Acharya had been threatened with death by the owner of a cashew processing plant in Khallikote, after the journalist published a report alleging child labor practices at the plant. The Hindu reported that the journalist was in possession of footage showing child laborers working under hazardous conditions.
While some initial reports citing Acharya's editor and police suggested the murder may have been related to a family dispute, authorities on June 8, 2014, arrested Shyam Sundar Prusty, the owner of the cashew processing plant, and an alleged accomplice, N Ramesh Reddy, owner of a local light and sound unit, in connection with the murder, news reports said.
Police cited a pre-existing personal enmity between Acharya and Prusty, but said that Prusty had seen Acharya's reporting on child labor at his facility as an attempt to damage his business, according to Ashish Kumar Singh, police superintendent of Ganjam district cited in The Indian Express. Singh accused Prusty of ordering Acharya's murder, paying three friends 50,000 rupees (US$850), and providing them with three new SIM cards, according to reports.
Police said Prusty confessed to the murder, according to local news reports. It's not clear if Prusty has been charged.
In October 2014, police also arrested Sibaram Nayak, a journalist who works for the Odisha-based Eastern Media group, according to news reports. Police accused Nayak of speaking to Prusty on the phone before and after the murder, reports said. Sub-Divisional Police Officer Alekh Chandra Pohi confirmed Nayak's arrest, but did not provide further details regarding Nayak's role in the murder, saying the investigation was still in progress, The Hindu reported. Nayak was charged under sections 302 and 120(b) of the Indian Penal Code for murder and criminal conspiracy respectively, reports said. He denied any involvement in the murder, reports said.
Nayak, Prusty, Reddy, and a fourth suspect, Suresh Chandra Sahu, are in custody but a fifth suspect, named as Nrusingha Panda, absconded, according to police and reports published in February 2015. Gupta Mohakud, Superintendent of Police in Ganjam district, told CPJ, "[Panda] is staying outside Odisha and we have not been able to obtain a mobile trail for him. But the trial process in the case will proceed and a senior lawyer, Santosh Kumar, has been appointed as a Special Public Prosecutor in the case."
Acharya is survived by his wife and daughter, according to reports.