Lucknow: A television journalist working with a Hindi news channel in Uttar Pradesh was reportedly found dead under mysterious circumstances on Sunday, June 13 – a day after he had informed the Additional Director General (ADG) of Prayagraj about the threat to his life, his family members said.
The journalist, identified as Sulabh Srivastava, was found in the Sukhpal Nagar area near Katra of the Pratapgarh district. The police have allegedly claimed the cause of death as a “road accident”.
"Sulabh Srivastava, a journalist working with ABP News channel was found dead around 9:45 pm on Sunday near a brick kiln in Katra Medniganj area of Kotwali Police Station. Prima facie, it looks like a case of a road accident. He fell from his Avenger bike on slippery road due to heavy rain; mud following heavy rainfall had made the stretch slippery and risky, especially for two-wheelers. He has a small scar above his left eye and no other injuries so far. He had also suffered internal injuries but it will come out only after post-mortem examination," Abhai Kumar Pandey, Circle Officer (CO) of the city told NewsClick, adding that the preliminary probe suggests that the deceased had hit a hand pump and electric pole which led to the injury.
As per reports, the journalist’s body was half naked at the time it was found. The police officer, however, said that he was not aware about it, adding that probably the labourers working at the brick kiln took off his clothes to check his health status since there was nobody present on the spot. "The journalist was returning from Lalganj area of Pratapgarh and was found injured on the side of road in Katra area. I was informed by some labourers who were present there," he stated.
Meanwhile, family members of the journalist alleged that there were several injury marks on the body and he was found half-naked, which clearly indicates it was a pre-planned murder. They said that the murder was committed by local bootleggers whom he gad exposed recently.
"The police is spinning the story. Sulabh did not die in a road accident. He was murdered as part of a conspiracy. On Sunday evening, he had gone to Lalganj Kotwali for coverage of an incident along with other journalists. They were returning from there around 10:30 in the night. He was found lying on the side of the road in suspicious condition near Katra area, and his body was half-naked," a family member told NewsClick.
Also read: Gagging Media: Another UP Journalist Killed, Second Attack in a Week
Referring to the letter written by Sulabh Srivastava to the Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Prayagraj Range, Prayagraj on June 12, two days before the journalist 'murder', the family member accused the district administration of not providing protection to him leading to the loss of his life.
Sulabh had sent a complaint letter to the ADG Prayagraj Zone a day earlier, as he felt threatened for his life and his family members following his report on liquor mafias in the district. In the letter, he said that liquor bottles were seized in large numbers during raids conducted by local police in multiple police stations of Pratapgarh district. He had reported the same for ABP News which was aired on its digital platform on June 9. Since then, some people were staking him wherever he goes, the journalist mentioned in the letter.
"Some liquor mafia was really upset and angry with the news my son had reported and they were following him everywhere. Despite giving a complaint about the threat to his life to ADG, no officers paid heed and we lost him," the deceased’s brother told NewsClick.
Commenting over the incident, Alok Tripathi, president of Lucknow Journalists’ Association said it was very unfortunate that attacks on journalists in the state had increased manifold in the past few years and the government had repeatedly failed to provide protection to the community who bring news, risking their lives.
“Ever since the BJP government came in Uttar Pradesh, reporting thr truth has become a sin for the journalists’ fraternity and neither the government nor the administration takes any cognisance of such incidents, resulting in their deaths. The Pratapgarh Police claimed it was an accident but how come his shirt was torn apart while hitting an electric pole? Why should the ADG be not held accountable for his failure to take action despite the journalist’s plea for security?,” Tripathi questioned, adding that the ruling government does not want journalists to write the truth, expose scams or irregularities.
“Journalists had died for doing their job under the previous governments as well but this new trend has become a harassment for journalists. FIRs, being booked under draconian laws have been initiated during the BJP government and it has created a fear among journalists,” he added.
Accusing Pratapgarh Police, Hemant Tiwari, president of Uttar Pradesh State Accreditation Correspondent Committee, said, “The statement by police officers that it was road accident even before post-mortem conducted is very unfortunate. The nexus between police and liquor mafias in the district is quite big in the region and it has become more evident after the journalist exposed it. The question arises, why the ADG did not take any action or responded to his application that he had written just a day before his death?”
This is not the first incident in Uttar Pradesh where a journalist was attacked for exposing the liquor mafia, last year in Unnao district another journalist was reportedly shot dead for exposing the illegal sand mining mafia and land grabbers in the region.
NewsClick had reported earlier that journalist Shubham Mani Tripathi alias Nikk (25) was shot by unidentified persons near Doodh Mandi in Gangaghat area in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district in June last year while he was returning home with his friend on a motorcycle.