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India 24 November 2008

Journalist gunned down in Assam, second to be killed on northeast in past week

Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn of the fatal shooting on 22 November of Jagajit Saikia, the correspondent of the regional daily Amar Asom in Kokrajhar, in an area where separatist groups are active in the west of the state of Assam. He is the second journalist to be killed in the past week in the northeast of India.

"The security situation is very worrying in the northeast," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is unacceptable that journalists should be made to pay for refusing to relay propaganda for the different parties to a conflict. This latest murder must not go unpunished. We call on the authorities in New Delhi to order the Central Bureau of Investigation to carry out an exhaustive investigation to determine the motives and arrest those responsible."

Saikia, 30, was talking with several people outside his office in Kokrajhar when two men on a motorcycle stopped beside him and fired six times at close range, a police spokesman said. One of the shots hit him in the head. The other five hit him in the chest. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His killers have not yet been identified.

The leaders of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a pro-independence group which dominates the Kokrajhar region and which signed a cease-fire with New Delhi in 2005, denied any role in the shooting. There are other armed groups in the region, above all the Bodo Liberation Tigers.

Saikia’s brother told Reporters Without Borders he did not understand the motive for the shooting as, to his knowledge, Saikia had no enemies. Saikia leaves a wife and a daughter aged two and a half.

The Assam Journalist Action Committee has decided to state a protest on Tuesday at the Press Club in Guwahati, the capital of Assam.

Fellow journalist Konsam Rishikanta was shot dead in Imphal, the capital of the neighbouring state of Manipur, on 17 November.

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