India is among the deadliest countries for journalists and mediapersons according to a report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Along with Pakistan, India has witnessed the murders of four journalists in 2020, only behind Mexico (8), Iraq (6) and Afghanistan (5).
The report states that 50 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in 2020 with 387 further journalists in detention. The number of deaths reported is the lowest in the last decade. The report has found that 68% of deaths have occurred in countries "at peace" while 32% have occurred in war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq.
India ranks 142 among 179 nations in the World Press Freedom Index as of December 2020.
"The world's violence continues to be visited upon journalists. Some may think that journalists are just the victims of the risks of their profession, but journalists are increasingly targeted when they investigate or cover sensitive subjects. What is being attacked is the right to be informed, which is everyone's right," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
China (76) has detained the most number of journalists followed by Egypt (28), Saudi Arabia (20) and Iran (16). Fourteen journalists are still in detention for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Five journalists had been detained in India.
This represents a growing trend of media persons being killed in countries not at war. In 2018, 60% of journalists death were in "peaceful" countries with the percentage rising to 62% in 2019.
The report found that 84% of journalists were deliberately killed as opposed to 69% in 2019. Many of the journalists killed were working on sensitive local topics like organised crime groups, corruption or misuse of funds and subjects linked to environmental issues. RSF also found that seven journalists were killed while covering protests in Iraq (four), Nigeria (two) and Colombia (one).
The four journalists who were targeted due to their work were Shubham Mani Tripathi, Isravel Moses, Parag Bhuyan and Rakesh Singh 'Nirbhik'.
Tripathi, a journalist with the Kanpur-based newspaper Kampu Mail, was gunned down by unidentified persons in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao on June 19, 2020. Ritesh Shukla, bureau chief of Kampu Mail alleged that Tripathi was murdered due to his reportage on the illegal sand mining and land-grabbing mafia in UP.
Moses, a reporter for Tamizhan TV, was hacked to death on November 8, 2020 in Tamil Nadu's Kancheepuram district. Moses was allegedly killed by a gang of drug dealers who suspected that he had tipped off the police about their activities.
Bhuyan was run over by a speeding vehicle near his house on November 12, 2020. In a statement, Bhuyan's editor-in-chief at Pratidin Time, Nitumoni Saikia alleged that he was murdered as he was "doing a series of reporting exposing the illegalities and corruption around Kakopathar area".
Nirbhik and his friend died after being doused with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before being set on fire at his home. In a video recorded before he succumbed to his injuries, Nirbhik alleged that he had been attacked by the local village Gram Pradhan for reporting about their alleged corruption. Nirbhik was a reporter for the Lucknow-based Rashtriya Swaroop newspaper.
Of the 387 journalists who were detained in connection with their work, five are from India. These include Kashmir Narrator's Aasif Sultan, Gauri Media Trust's Doddipalya Narasimhamurthy, veteran journalist Gautam Navlakha, The Frontier Manipur's Kishorechandra Wangkhem and independent journalist Siddique Kappan. Narasimhamurthy and Wangkhem have since been released on bail.