The vast majority of Indian journalists killed on the job in the last 25 years have been Indian language journalists, as was Gauri Lankesh, the fiery woman journalist shot dead in her house in Bengaluru on Tuesday night.
Data compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that 40 Indian journalists were killed in targeted assassinations or in violence while on the job between 1992 and 2017, for confirmed motives. None of them who were killed in targeted assassinations worked for English publications — the majority worked for Hindi newspapers, along with those who worked in Assamese, Urdu, Telugu, Gujarati and Punjabi media organisations. Most of the Indian journalists killed also worked in smaller cities – Jhansi, Siwan, Shahjahanpur.
Another 27 were killed in incidents whose motives the CPJ classifies as “unconfirmed”; among these was the Mumbai-based investigative journalist J Dey who worked for the English publication Mid-Day. In all, of the 67 killings recorded in the last 25 years, just nine worked for the English media.
Despite the conceit of many English-language journalists in metropolitan cities that they are the ones speaking truth to power, in reality, the small-town Hindi reporter taking on local politicians and businessmen may be putting herself in the path of greatest danger.
“Journalists in smaller towns and rural areas working in Indian languages can be most vulnerable when they take on powerful interests; they face the most challenges and there is not enough media solidarity with them,” N Ram, Publisher and former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, said. Journalists in big cities who are higher profile with greater visibility have more relative security, Ram said.