By Abdul Gani
GUWAHATI, India (AA) – The recent murder of two journalists in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand has sparked outrage across the country and made India the most dangerous place in Asia for journalists -- ahead of Pakistan and Afghanistan -- according to Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders.
On Friday, Rajdeo Ranjan, a journalist with over 20 years’ experience and bureau chief of Hindi-language daily "Hindustan", was shot dead in Bihar State's Siwan district.
According to India’s NDTV channel, unidentified assailants fired five shots at Ranjan at extremely close range near the Siwan Railway Station, killing him instantly.
One day earlier, 35-year-old Akhilesh Pratap Singh, who had worked for a local television news channel, was similarly killed by unidentified gunmen in Jharkhand State’s Chatra district.
In the days since, members of various Indian press organizations have held demonstrations to demand justice and new legislation guaranteeing protection for media personnel.
"We condemn such attacks… and appeal to the government to take strict action against the culprits," Nava Thakuria, secretary-general of the Journalist Forum of Assam, a media organization, told Anadolu Agency.
"We demand a special protection law for journalists working across India and call upon the union government in New Delhi to formulate a national action plan to safeguard media persons who pursue critical journalism," Thakuria said.
So far this year, three journalists in India have been killed, the first incident having occurred in Uttar Pradesh State on Feb. 13, when Tarun Mishra, 32, who had worked for a Hindi-language daily, was shot dead.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, a total of 38 journalists have been killed in India since 1992, prompting Reporters without Borders to designate it the world’s sixth deadliest country for journalists.
"I urge the government… to enact a special law for the protection of journalists and speedy trials in cases of attacks and assaults on them in special fast-track courts," CK Prasad, head of the Press Council of India and a former Supreme Court judge, was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, for his part, who is also responsible for the government’s Information and Broadcasting portfolio, likewise condemned the recent spate of killings and has demanded an independent investigation.