Remember Gauri Lankesh

Published: Mon Sep 10 2018

One year after journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed in Bengaluru, many journalists in India continue to face death threats, attacks and false charges for just doing their work, Amnesty International India said today.

"Gauri Lankesh’s death anniversary is an occasion for us to introspect on how people who expose the truth, including journalists and whistle blowers, are increasingly under attack in India. While it is heartening that the investigation into Gauri Lankesh’s murder seems to be progressing, investigations into several other attacks on journalists and whistle blowers have yielded precious little. It is a dangerous time for anyone who speaks truth to power in India," said Aakar Patel of Amnesty India.

According to Reporters Without Borders, in the first six months of 2018, at least four journalists have been murdered across India and at least three other journalists have been physically attacked. Several other journalists have received threats for journalism that is critical of the state. In August, two journalists were arrested in a massive nationwide crackdown on human rights defenders.

"Be it the arrest of Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, or the murder of several other journalists, attacks on journalism in India not only stifle the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression but also have a profound silencing effect. Journalism cannot be suppressed by those refusing to acknowledge the truth." said Aakar Patel.

A Special Investigation Team is currently investigating Gauri Lankesh’s murder. The Special Investigation Team has made twelve arrests. It is reported that arrested persons have links with hardline Hindu groups. Gauri was an Indian journalist-turned-activist from Bengaluru, Karnataka. She worked as an editor in Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly and ran her own weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. Gauri was known to be a vocal critic and fearless journalist who spoke up against hardline Hindu groups and the caste system.

"This occasion is also a good time to call for investigations into all attacks on journalists. Impunity should not be tolerated in any such cases," said Aakar Patel.

Gauri Lankesh’s murder is part of a growing trend of attacks on journalists in the country. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) ranked India 12th in its 2017 Global Impunity Index, which ranks countries according to where the murders of journalists are least likely to be prosecuted. According to data available with the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2014 and 2017, as many as 204 attacks against media persons have been registered in India. India’s position among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index has gone from 136 in 2017 to 138 in 2018.

Besides journalists, others who expose corruption and rights violations like whistle blowers and ‘Right to Information’ (RTI) activists are also being targeted. 14 cases of attacks against whistleblowers and RTI activists were recorded in 2017 according to National Crime Records Bureau data. Activists say the actual number is much higher. The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014 has not been operationalised and the union government has proposed amendments that will dilute the protections provided by the Act, and drastically increase the risks for whistle blowers.

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Smriti Singh
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