In India’s financial hub, Mumbai, hundreds of journalists have held a march to protest the gunning down of a prominent crime reporter in the city. Journalists call the killing a challenge to media freedom and are demanding more security and a tough law to punish those who threaten reporters.
Journalists and editors led the march Monday to the Maharashtra chief minister’s office in Mumbai demanding that the killing of a senior crime reporter be investigated by federal authorities.
Jyotirmoy Dey, 56, was shot at point blank range by four gunmen on two motorbikes near his home on Saturday afternoon. The brazen attack, which police say was carried out by professional gangs, has shaken the city’s journalists.
Dey’s editor in Mid-Day newspaper, where he worked, has called him a victim of “fearless journalism.” Dey wrote many newspaper reports and two books on organized crime gangs in Mumbai.
The Mumbai Press Club’s president, Gurbir Singh, says many journalists in Maharashtra have been beaten or threatened by politicians and the local crime syndicate in recent months. He says Dey was among them.
“The local cops, the local police had ample evidence that there had been threats to the life of J. Dey. Dey had also informed the local police that he had been receiving these threatening calls," Singh said. "No action was taken, so we feel an independent agency which can conduct the probe quickly should be in charge of this case.”
In a statement, the Mumbai Press Club said Dey’s death underscores the increasing threat to investigative journalists from powerful political and business interests involved in illegal activities.
The journalists say they want a new law which will make threats and attacks on journalists an offense for which bail cannot be sought. The club’s president, Singh, says the government must do more to protect journalists.
“The government is treating it as if it is not a freedom of the press issue, but it is part of the occupational hazards which journalists face. This is the situation we find ourselves in,” Singh said.
Some reports have linked Dey’s death to a series of articles he recently wrote on the so-called “oil mafia,” or groups that dilute petrol with subsidized kerosene which they steal from tankers.
Maharashtra’s chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, has promised steps to ensure that journalists can work without fear, and foil all efforts to “terrorize” the media.