22 February 2012

Investigative journalist and family murdered

A freelance journalist who had investigated illegal mining activity, his wife and their two children were found brutally murdered in their home in India's Madhya Pradesh state on 18 February, report the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).

Indian national media reported that Chandrika Rai, his wife, Durga, and their children, Jalaj (19) and Nisha (17) had been killed with a sharp object and each left in a separate room of the house. The bodies were discovered by the journalist's brother, who became suspicious after noticing that the family's front door had been locked from the outside.

In a letter addressed to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Indian Editors Guild said it suspected that the gruesome crime was linked to Rai's work as a journalist.

Rai had been investigating illegal coal-mining activity in the state's central Umaria district and had recently written a series of articles for the Nagpur-based "Hitavada" paper alleging the involvement of a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician.

According to IPI, although the Umaria coalfields are controlled by an arm of India's state-run coal corporation, illegal coal mining remains rampant in the region.

Local police, however, told the media they are pursuing multiple angles in their investigation, including the possibility that the murders may be linked to the kidnapping of the 7-year old son of a government official last week.

According to IPI, local media reported that Rai had publicly accused the police of protecting the two suspects in the kidnapping. Rai had also disputed police claims that the boy was rescued without a ransom having to be paid, say IPI and IFJ.

India is one of the worst countries for investigating journalists' murders, ranking 13th in the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) impunity index, which spotlights where journalists are slain and the killers go free.

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