BANGALORE • Journalists and rights activists in various cities across India protested yesterday against the murder of an outspoken editor and publisher of a weekly tabloid amid growing concerns about freedom of the press at a time of rising nationalism and intolerance of dissent.
Ms Gauri Lankesh, 55, the editor and publisher of the Kannada language Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was shot dead by three gunmen on a motorcycle as she entered her home in the southern city of Bangalore in Karnataka state on Tuesday.
The identities and motivations of her killers were not known, said the police. Ms Lankesh was found dead on her front porch with bullet wounds to her head and chest.
Journalist groups, including the Editors Guild of India, Press Club of India and Indian Press Association, held protests across the country, calling the murder a "brutal assault on the freedom of the press".
Ms Lankesh was a critic of the federal government and wrote extensively about secularism.
Indian journalist and political commentator Shekhar Gupta said: "Journalism is nothing without courage. Democracy is nothing without dissent. Lankesh had plenty of both."
On social media, the hashtag #GauriLankeshMurder was the top trend on Twitter India, the BBC reported.
However, there were also tweets that condemned her and even celebrated her death.
The killing is a new low in India's track record in recent years of protecting journalists.
The South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people slipped three places to 136th in this year's World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders. The group said Hindu nationalists, on the rise since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in 2014, were "trying to purge all manifestations of anti-national thought".
India also has a poor track record of prosecuting journalists' killings.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that there have been no convictions in any of the 27 cases of journalists murdered in India due to their work since 1992.
The latest death follows the murders of vocal Indian secularists including academic M.M. Kalburgi, who was shot dead in 2015 in Karnataka, allegedly by Hindu radicals.
Ms Lankesh was a target of right-wing trolling on social media and had complained of facing "rabid hate" that made her fear for free speech in India.
Last year, she was found guilty of defaming a lawmaker from the BJP in a 2008 article about alleged corruption. She was appealing against the conviction.
The All India Democratic Women's Association said in a statement: "The murder must be investigated effectively and with urgency."
Ms Lankesh's murder was a "grim indicator of the intolerance and violence that have been let loose by the increasing influence of right-wing forces in the country", it added.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE