Lucknow: The brutal murder of a young journalist on Friday in broad daylight in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district has sent shockwaves across the state with fingers being pointed at the illegal sand mining mafia and land grabbers active in the region.
Journalist Shubham Mani Tripathi alias Nikk (25) was shot by unidentified persons near Doodh Mandi in Gangaghat area in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district on Friday while he was returning home with his friend on a motorcycle, Superintendent of Police Rohan P Kanay told mediapersons.
Tripathi was rushed to hospital in a serious condition in Kanpur, where he died, the official said. A person present at the spot told the police that the victim was a journalist, the SP said, adding that a probe into the matter is on. "Teams have been formed to nab those involved in the incident," he said.
According to reports, Tripathi was a reporter with a newspaper named Kampu Mail, published from Kanpur.
"Shubham was our district correspondent based in Unnao. He had joined the newspaper seven months back. He used to send news regarding crimes and land mafias. Recently, he had had some arguments with land grabbers and expressed fear that he might be killed by them. Divya Awasthi, a lady who deals with land businesses and is politically active, is said to be involved in the murder. A First Information Report (FIR) was filed against her," Ritesh Shukla, bureau chief of Kampu Mail, told NewsClick, adding that Shubham received three bullets in his head, two in the chest and one in probably in the neck.
According to Shukla, the deceased journalist had expressed concern on Facebook that he could be killed, but the police did not take him seriously.
"There is some government land that Divya Awasthi wanted to take possession of. He exposed the matter and she could not do that. This was the reason Shubham was killed by her goons. They had attacked Shubham at his house last year after he exposed her and now, have killed him," alleged Dhirendra Mani Tripathi, Shubham’s uncle, adding that the scribe had got married just a few months ago.
Illegal mining contractors and sand mafias pose a real threat to the local journalists in Uttar Pradesh. A nexus with politicians and the police allows black marketeers in various districts to exploit millions of tons of sand each year.
Most of these journalists are either freelancers or hail from rural areas. There is allegedly inadequate police investigation into the sometimes fatal attacks perpetrated on them.
Attacks Against Journalists In UP On Rise
The number of attacks against media outlets and journalists under Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has increased.
Recently, a First Information Report (FIR) has been filed against a journalist, Supriya Sharma, the executive editor of Scroll.in, for allegedly misrepresenting facts in a report on the impact of the lockdown in a village adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The FIR was filed at Ramnagar police station based on a complaint from Mala Devi, a resident of Domari village.
Mala Devi, who was quoted by Sharma in her report, has alleged in the FIR that her identity was misrepresented, her comments misconstrued, and that Sharma had made “fun of my poverty and caste”.
Similarly, the UP police in April had filed two FIRs against one of the founding editors of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan for a news report about Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath violating the national lockdown to take part in a religious event in Ayodhya on March 25.
Pawan Jaiswal, a journalist associated with Jansandesh, a Hindi publication, was booked for criminal conspiracy for his exposé on the mid-day meals served in a government school. In his report, Jaiswal had revealed that children of a primary school in Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district were seen eating chapatis with salt as their mid-day meal, a flagship scheme of the central government.
Reacting over the increasing instances of attack on journalists in Uttar Pradesh, Suman Gupta, a veteran journalist based in Lucknow and former member of Press Council of India, told NewsClick, "The Uttar Pradesh government does not want journalists to report against Yogi Adityanath, Narendra Modi and the government’s failure can not be reported. By filing an FIR, the government is trying to create paranoia among journalists so that they would not dare to write against the government next time."
"With increasing access to smartphones, demand for digital journalism has increased. The quantum of news also has increased on digital media outlets as everyone does not get space to write in newspapers. And if a report is published in a Bahraich-based newspaper, the same newspaper may not be accessible in other districts. This is why digital platforms have proved to be effective these days. There are a number of cases against journalists mainly publishing on digital media," Gupta added.
Registration of FIRs, summons or show cause notices, physical assaults, destruction of property, arrest and threats have become routine practices in Uttar Pradesh to suppress the journalists, say observers.
Hemant Tiwari, president of the Uttar Pradesh State Accreditation Committee said, "I met Shubham's family today and they have written a letter to the higher authorities, but nobody has paid heed. More than 118 cases have been lodged against journalists across UP within a year in the state.”