Police have arrested three men in connection with the murder of journalist Sandeep Kothari, who was kidnapped and burned to death in the state of Madya Pradesh according to news reports. PEN International, PEN Canada and PEN Delhi call on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this brutal murder and bring all perpetrators to justice.
According to media reports, 40 year-old Sandeep Kothari, who worked for a local Jabalpur-based Hindi daily, was kidnapped from his home state of Madya Pardesh on June 19, choked and set on fire. His charred body was discovered on in the neighbouring district of Maharashtra the following evening.
According to a number of reports, Kothari was targeted because of his writing about illegal mining in the area and for refusing to withdraw a court case he filed against individuals involved in the mining racket. Police officials have said the three men held were suspected to be involved in illegal mining.
‘This is a horrific reminder of the perils of being a journalist in India. India’s authorities must thoroughly investigate the murder of Sandeep Kothari and all cases of journalists killed in connection with their work.’ – said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Programme. ‘It is imperative that these investigations are conducted with sense of urgency, that motives are confirmed and that all perpetrators are brought to justice in order to combat the culture of impunity that persists in India.’
Earlier this month, freelance journalist Jagender Singh was set on fire after he accused a state minister of being involved in illegal mining and land seizures in northern India. He later died from his burns.
‘It’s not enough for the murderers of Jagender Singh and Sandeep Kothari to be caught. Each person up the chain of command who conspired in their horrific killings must be identified and convicted, and swiftly.’ – Karuna Nundy, PEN Delhi Centre.
In May this year, PEN International, in partnership with PEN Canada and the International Human rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law released a ground-breaking report – Imposing Silence: The Use of India’s Laws to Supress Free Speech – documenting ways in which India’s laws fail to protect freedom of speech.
India ranked 136 out of 180 nations in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters without Borders.
To read the report click here.