Two journalists murdered in India investigating illegal mining and sex assaults

Two journalists investigating illegal mining in India have reportedly been murdered.

Jagendra Singh (pictured: India.com), a freelance journalist, was reportedly beaten and set on fire with paraffin oil outside his home on 1 June in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He died a week later from his wounds.

Singh had been investigating land grabbing, illegal mining and sexual assaults in and around Shahjahanpur. Shortly before his death, he reportedly "identified his assailants" before stating that they had attacked him on behalf of "a government minister" to "teach him an extreme lesson". According to international press body WAN-IFRA, local police later claimed that his death had been a "suicide". The minister and local police chief were subsequently arrested, the Mail Online reports.

Two weeks later, the body of Sandeep Kothari, a journalist for the Nai Dunya newspaper, was found in Maharastra, after he was kidnapped from the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh. Kothari's investigations revolved around a local "mining mafia". His lawyer claimed that he had received "criminal complaints" against his activities. Indian media has reported that a total of seven arrests have now been made, some of whom are "suspected to be involved in illegal mining".

Citing local media reports, WAN-IFRA said that both journalists had been locally investigating illegal operations and assaults, some of which allegedly involved the collusion of public officials, police and criminal gangs.

WAN-IFRA joined in calls from The Press Council of India and Amnesty International for an independent investigation into the deaths. It has also written a letter to the Uttar Pradesh's chief minister calling for policies of "zero tolerance for those who intimidate and attack journalists".

The CPJ, the Committee to protect Journalists reported that 22 Journalists have been murdered in India since 1992, up to and including Singh (but not Kothari). According to the CPJ the majority of these journalists reported on politics and corruption.

India currently ranks 136 out of 180 nations in the press freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders.

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