Authorities in India must thoroughly investigate the killing of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh, shot dead outside her home in Bangalore on Tuesday, to make sure such crimes against journalists are not met with impunity, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.
Lankesh, founding editor of the Kannada-language weekly tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was found dead on the porch of her house with multiple bullet wounds to her chest and head.
Police told media that at least three suspects were involved in the shooting, but made no comment on a possible motive. They said the assailants were either following Lankesh home from work or were waiting in the neighbourhood for her arrival.
The chief minister of Karnataka state, Siddarmaiah, termed Lankesh’s death “shocking” and said three police teams had been formed to investigate the killing and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Press groups throughout India condemned the killing. The Editors Guild of India in a statement called for an efficient investigation, demanding that the “Karnataka government acts with alacrity to bring the culprits to justice apart from instituting a judicial probe into the killing”.
The statement continued: “Her killing is an ominous portent for dissent in democracy and a brutal assault on the freedom of the press.”
The Press Club of India said that it believed the killing was connected to Lankesh’s work as a journalist. It said in a statement: “A fearless and independent journalist who gave voice to many causes and always stood up for justice has been shot dead in the most brutal manner in order to silence her voice.”
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis called for authorities to investigate every angle in the killing.
“We expect the authorities to thoroughly investigate the killing of Gauri Lankesh, including looking into the possibility that the crime was connected to her work as a critical journalist,” he said. “Her death is the latest in an appalling tally of journalists killed in India, too many with impunity. The failure to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice undoubtedly has a chilling effect on journalists covering sensitive issues of public interest.”
Lankesh, 55, was known as an active critic of Hindu nationalism, far-right politics and the caste system. Last year she was sentenced to spend six months in prison in two defamation cases brought against her by members of Bharatiya Janata, India’s largest political party, over a 2008 article in her magazine accusing them of theft. Lankesh was granted bail and was appealing the sentence.
The journalist had received several threats for her writing. In an interview last year, she said that the “rabid hate” against the critics of Hindu nationalism and comments on social media against journalists made her fear for freedom of expression in India. She also spoke against current defamation law in India.
Lankesh is the fourth journalist killed in India within the last year, according to IPI’s Death Watch. Overall, at least 63 journalists have lost their lives in India in connection with their work since 1997.
On Jan. 3, unknown assailants gunned down Brajesh Kumar Singh, a reporter for a Hindi daily, in India’s Bihar state. On Jan. 9, unknown assailants hacked magazine journalist S. Karthigai Selvan to death outside a hotel in the state of Tamil Nadu. No motive has been established in either killing.
On Nov. 12, three unidentified gunmen shot Dharmendra Singh, a reporter for the national Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, at a roadside in the town of Sasaram. Later that month, police said that one man had admitted involvement in the killing and that he alleged that a colleague killed Singh at the behest of an imprisoned gangster angered by Singh’s articles on a local stone and mining mafia.