Killing of outspoken Indian journalist described as 'assassination on democracy'

The shooting of a prominent Indian journalist has been described as an “assassination on democracy”.

Gauri Lankesh, 55, was shot dead outside her home. According to the BBC the gunmen arrive by motorcycle.

Lankesh edited a weekly newspaper called Gauri Lankesh Patrike and was known as fearless and outspoken journalist who was seen as critical of right wingers and Hindu nationalists.

She was convicted of defamation last year for a report which was critical of leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party – the Conservative and Hindu nationalist political party.

She was sentenced to six months jail and was on bail pending an appeal.

Writer K Marulasiddappa told the BBC: “The attack on the select writers is obviously happening because they are able to mould public opinion…

“There is a pattern in the way assailants come on motorbikes, kill, and vanish.

“There cannot be any personal reasons attributed to her death because she had no personal enemies. So, the possibility is only political.”

Karnataka state’s chief minister Siddaramaiah called the killing an “assassination on democracy”.

In January this year Brajesh Kumar, 28, a journalist for a Hindi daily was shot dead by gunmen shooting from an SUV – according to the Hindustan Times.

Reporters Without Borders ranks India 136 out of 180 countries worldwide in terms of press freedom.

It said in its World Press Freedom Index: “With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media.

“Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals.

“Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which ‘sedition’ is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship.”

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