2 February 2011

Journalist who reported on health issues gunned down

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A journalist who had received death threats after publishing a story about an operation gone wrong was shot dead last week outside his residence near Raipur district, India, report the International Press Institute (IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Two masked gunmen shot Umesh Rajput, a reporter with the Hindi-language daily "Nai Dunia", on 23 January.

According to IPI, police are interrogating a female health worker who had apparently threatened to kill Rajput two weeks before his death. He had recently published an article about a man who developed an eye infection after an operation.

Found near his body was a note written in red ink that said, "If you don't stop publishing news, you will die."

IPI says it is the second murder of a journalist in the state of Chhattisgarh recently. On 20 December, unidentified gunmen murdered reporter Sushil Pathak in Bilaspur district. The police have yet to make any arrests.

According to CPJ, local news reports said that police suspected the threats might be a cover for a murder by Maoist insurgents. Violence between the insurgents, government security forces and state-supported vigilantes has escalated in recent years in the area.

For instance, says CPJ, local media reported explicit death threats to three journalists based in the southern district of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state - which appeared to come from a vigilante group fighting the long-running Maoist insurgency in the area. Rajput was not one of the journalists mentioned in the threats.

While India is known for its vibrant and free media, journalists outside major cities continue to confront violence and threats. India ranks 12th on CPJ's 2010 impunity index, which highlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free.

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