The recent spate of journalist killings in India and Pakistan was slammed on Thursday by a media rights network of 20 prominent editors and media figures from across the region.
Declaring that “impunity recognizes no boundaries,” the South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) – which includes India, Bangladesh and Pakistan – condemned the killings of two journalists in the state of Bihar and one in Madhya Pradesh in India, and one in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
“The alarming pattern of attacks against journalists, without successful investigations or convictions, points towards shrinking freedom of expression and anti-media tendencies in democratic nations, and concerns the very right to life itself,” the group said in a press release.
Signatories of the statement included Sanjoy Hazarika, international director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI); Kanak Dixit, founder of Himal magazine in Nepal; and Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh.
Two of the killings occurred on Tuesday, March 27.
In Madhya Pradesh, a television channel stringer named Sandeep Sharma was run over by a truck. He had recently conducted a sting operation which exposed a police official accepting a monthly bribe of Rs25,000 in exchange for allowing sand mining in a protected crocodile sanctuary, the press release said.
Separately in Punjab, a correspondent of the Daily Nawa-I-Waqt, Zeeshan Ashraf Butt, was shot by the chairman of the Begowala Union Council following an argument, according to the Rural Media Network Pakistan (RMNP). According to the press release, it was the second killing of a journalist in Pakistan this year to be registered by the RMNP.
The killings came two days after the alleged murders in Bihar of Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, who were run over by a man driving a local leader's car.
“(These murders) represent a burst of attacks on media workers in one week in India,” the statement said.
Thursday’s declaration from SAMDEN was endorsed by RMNP president Ehsan Ahmad Khan Sehar, and London-based Rita Payne, the president emeritus of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA).
“Impunity recognizes no boundaries,” the press release said. “Reporters in rural areas and vernacular media appear particularly vulnerable to arbitrariness and threatening conduct.
“SAMDEN calls on governments and political parties across the spectrum to ensure the protection of journalists. The Madhya Pradesh and Bihar governments, with the Punjab government in Pakistan, must ensure justice to families and that the attackers are brought to book.”
SAMDEN is working to develop stronger networking in the region to highlight issues relating to media rights, and threats to freedom of expression.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-government, international, non-profit organization committed to protecting and promoting human rights in Commonwealth nations.