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Journalists, activists protest murder of Gauri Lankesh

BENGALURU,  (REUTERS): Indian journalists and rights activists protested on Wednesday against the murder of an outspoken publisher of a weekly tabloid amid growing concerns about freedom of the press at a time of rising nationalism and intolerance of dissent.
Gauri Lankesh, 55, the editor and publisher of the Kannada-language “Gauri Lankesh Patrike” newspaper, was shot dead on Tuesday by unidentified assailants near her home in Bengaluru.
She had parked her car outside her gate and was walking to the main entrance of her home when the attackers fired at least seven rounds, killing her, police said. The motive was not known.
Lankesh was a fierce advocate of secularism and opposed hardline Hindu groups associated with Prime Narendra Modi’s right-wing, nationalist ruling party.
Her weekly, with a circulation of more than 5,000, is regarded as influential in the state, read by policy makers and politicians. Lankesh spent decades with various media outlets before taking over the newspaper started by her father.
Several journalist groups, including the Editors’ Guild, Press Club of India and Press Association, held protests in cities across India, calling her murder a “brutal assault on the freedom of the press”.
They said she was a critical, secular voice at a time when the country was being swept by a wave of right-wing, Hindu nationalism.
“She was an idealist and would take on the right-wing forces on several controversial issues,” said Y.P. Rajesh, an executive editor at the news website The Print and a long-time friend of Lankesh.
The U.S. embassy in New Delhi also condemned the killing.

The murder is a new low in India’s recent record of protecting journalists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that there have been no convictions in any of the 27 cases of journalists murdered in India because of their work since 1992.
This year, the country of 1.3 billion people slipped three places to 136th in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
The group said Hindu nationalists, on the rise since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in 2014, were “trying to purge all manifestations of anti-national thought”.
Journalists seen to be critical of Hindu nationalists are often insulted on social media, and some women reporters have been threatened with assault. People, including BJP members, have also openly insulted journalists, using terms like “presstitute” – a combination press and prostitute – to berate them.
In recent weeks, Lankesh had posted videos on her Facebook page that were critical of Modi’s economic policies and the rise of hardline Hindu groups since he came to power.
Last year, she was sentenced to six months in jail after a defamation case was filed by a BJP member. She was released on bail.
Ananth Kumar, a federal minister in the Modi government, said the state government must arrest those behind the killing.
The state government in Karnataka, run by the Congress party, said it had set up a special investigations team to investigate and police were examining CCTV footage.
M.N. Anucheth, a senior police official investigating the case, said Lankesh was shot in the head, next and chest.

“This is an attempt to silence all of us — all of those who believe in democracy and decency,” Ramchandra Guha, a historian told the Indian Express newspaper.

A brutal assault on the freedom of the press: EGI

DIMAPUR, SEPTEMBER 6 (MExN): The Editors Guild of India has condemned the murder of Gauri Lankesh, senior journalist and Editor, Lankesh Patrike. A press note from the EGI stated that Gauri Lankesh was a known critic of the Central government on key issues and had fearlessly expressed her views in the newspaper she edited as well as in other forums. “Her killing is an ominous portent for dissent in democracy and a brutal assault on the freedom of the press,” the EGI said, and demanded that the Karnataka Government act with alacrity to bring the culprits to justice apart from instituting a judicial probe into the killing. The Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) also condemned the murder and stated that “apart from non-physical attacks to silence media, as the year 2017 rolls on, India stands at an awkward position over the journo-murder index, as we have witnessed the murder of six professional journalists in the last nine months.” A statement from the JFA reiterated the demand for a special protection law for the scribes across the country.

Amnesty flags concern over free speech

New Delhi, September 6 (PTI): The killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh by gunmen outside her residence in Bengaluru “raises alarm” about the state of freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International India said today. Gauri, who was known for her strident anti-establishment views and writings against Hindu fundamentalists, was never afraid of speaking truth to power, the rights body said. “Her assassination must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. The police must investigate whether she was killed because of her journalism,” Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India, said. Gauri, 55, was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly. She was widely regarded as an independent and outspoken journalist and activist, and a fierce critic of hardline Hindu groups in Karnataka. “Critical journalists and activists have increasingly faced threats and attacks across India in recent years. State governments must act to protect those whose voices of dissent are being silenced,” Basu said. The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that there have been no conviction in any of 27 cases of journalists “murdered for their work” in India since 1992, the statement said.

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