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India 23 November 2006

Journalist threatened by militia death threats

A journalist who received death threats from a pro-government militia is in danger in the central-east Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Afzal Khan, correspondent in Bhopalpatnam for the daily Hind Sat based in Jagdalpur, central India, was badly beaten and received explicit threats he would be killed.

"The fight against Maoist groups has been getting out of hand,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Chhattisgarh state government’s use of armed militia, responsible for frequent abuses, has very harmful consequences for the work of local reporters.”

Khan and several other journalists were summoned to Bhopalpatnam on 15 November by, leaders of the Salwa Judum militia, Budhram Rana and Hanif Khan, and accused of helping the chiefs of some villages, who had suffered abuses at the hands of the pro-government militia.

Khan was then ordered to attend a ceremony in which militiamen burned effigies of their enemies where he was set upon by police officers who accused him of writing reports critical of Salwa Judum. He was beaten and left with two broken fingers, but did not report the incident for fear of reprisals against his family.

The journalist told Reporters Without Borders that he can be forced to flee the region with his family because the leaders of the militia had explicitly threatened to kill him.

“The Union government should react to this situation and protect the freedom and safety of all journalists in this state”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. It has sent a letter to the state’s chief minister, Raman Singh.

In January 2006, Reporters Without Borders protested at the treatment of Kamlesh Paikra, correspondent in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state of regional daily Hind Sat, who lost his job and was forced to flee the city after receiving threats linked to his reports critical to Salwa Judum.

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