NEW DELHI (AFP) – An Indian soldier shot dead a journalist following a dispute, police said Wednesday (Nov 22), the country’s third high-profile media killing in barely three months.
Sudip Dutta Bhaumik died on Tuesday at a paramilitary base in the remote northeastern state of Tripura, where his editor said he was investigating allegations of financial fraud by the force.
Local police chief Abhijit Saptarshi said the soldier shot and killed Bhaumik “after they argued and scuffled over some issue” and had since been arrested.
“He was shot dead inside the office of the commander by a soldier,” Saptarshi told Agence France-Presse, adding the soldier claimed Bhaumik had tried to snatch his rifle.
The editor of the newspaper that employed Bhaumik, the Bengali-language Syandan Patrika, said the reporter had gone to the headquarters of the Second Tripura State Rifles near the state capital Agartala to speak to a senior officer allegedly involved in fraud.
“The commandant called him to his office after we published four stories on his alleged role in a scam,” Subal Kumar Dey told AFP.
“He then ordered his bodyguard to shoot him before firing another shot himself.” Dey said soldiers then took Bhaumik’s body to a nearby area of ground, where it was later discovered, and cleaned the scene of the alleged shooting.
India’s media has been hit by a series of killings this year.
One reporter was lynched by a mob on Sept 20 during clashes between police and warring political factions near Agartala. His mutilated body was found the next day.
Also in September, gunmen shot dead renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh in the southern city of Bangalore, amid allegations that she was targeted for her views on right-wing Hindus. No arrests have been made in that case.
India was ranked the deadliest country in Asia for journalists by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2015.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says 41 reporters have been killed in India since the early 1990s, a figure that excludes the two latest deaths in Tripura.
In April, RSF ranked India 136th of 180 countries in its world press freedom ratings.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly voiced his commitment to press freedom, but his party has been criticised over frequent online attacks by its supporters on those who express dissenting views.