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Murder of Gauri Lankesh Puts Spotlight on Freedom of the Press

Translated Monday 18 September 2017, by Sophie Kohne

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Wednesday, September 6th, thousands gathered across cities in India to commemorate Gauri Lankesh. Photo taken in Bangalore by Amit Dave/AFP.

On Tuesday, September 5th, Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified assailants in front of her home in Bangalore, a city in southern India. She was known as an outspoken advocate in the fight against inequality and a rebel against the caste system.

After being followed from work to her home and spied on by the attackers, the journalist was killed by multiple gunshots to the head and chest just outside her residence. Prime Minister Narenda Modi suspects “organized crime.” This murder occurred two years after the killing of Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, a university researcher shot by two unidentified men in his home in Dharwad, in the north of Karnataka, on August 30, 2015. Regarded as a progressive thinker, he had been the recipient of numerous death threats for his involvement in his country’s political scene. Demonstrations were held in many cities across India, including the capital city of New Delhi, to protest the murder, which was seen as jeopardizing the freedom of the press.

Targeted for her political opinions

Gauri Lankesh started her career working for The Times of India. She expressed strong concern for the way in which people are targeted for their personal ideologies and opinions. She was the daughter of P. Lankesh, a poet and author, and took over the newspaper founded by her father and managed it with her brother. Following a conflict of opinions with her brother, she created her own weekly newspaper, Gauri Lankesh Patrike. In 2008, her newspaper took the spotlight when she released a controversial story about numerous political leaders of the BJP (the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu
right-wing nationalist party). Because she refused to disclose her sources, the court accused her of defamation and sentenced her to six months in prison. She was immediately granted bail and asserted that she had been targeted for her political opinions and that the accusations against her were unjustified, especially considering that several other local newspapers had published similar statements. She was a harsh critic of the politics of Hindutva (an Indian nationalist movement), which, according to her, was neither a political party nor a religion but a social hierarchy system under which women are considered “second-class citizens.”

Indian journalists have been increasingly targeted by radical Hindu nationalists. The country is listed 133rd out of 180 countries in the rankings of freedom of the press established by Reporters without Borders and remains the 13th most dangerous country for journalists, according to the CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists.


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