Oil mafia behind killing of Andhra journalist?

IN Media Freedom | 29/11/2014
Andhra Prabha journalist MVN Shankar wrote about the kerosene oil mafia in Guntur just days before he was fatally attacked.
It took two days for news of the dastardly killing of MVN Shankar, a senior journalist from Andhra Prabha newspaper in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday to make it to local and regional newspapers and television and there’s no telling when it will be ‘news’ worthy for national media.
The death, coming just three days after an international campaign to end Impunity ended on November 23 to mark the 2009 massacre of 32 mediapersons in Maguindanao, Ampatuan town, Philippines, underscores the extremely precarious and vulnerable conditions for journalists, especially in smaller towns and cities.
The free speech tracker of The Hoot’s Free Speech Hub, which has been monitoring freedom of expression in India since 2010, recorded eight deaths of journalists in 2013, of who six are from Uttar Pradesh and two from Chhattisgarh. In 2011, there were three deaths and five in 2012.
Even now, there is little information about the killers, save that they assaulted him with iron rods at around 10p.m. on Tuesday, November 25, near his residence in Chilakaluripeta of Guntur District in the coastal part of Andhra Pradesh. He was returning home after filing his report for the newspaper, says a statement from the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ). The 53-year-old Shankar was shifted to Guntur Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries the next day.
Shankar was our journalist, said Y S Sharma, editor of Andhra Prabha. “He was working with us for the last five years. He used to file a lot of stories on the kerosene oil mafia and had recently written about corruption in the rice mill trade,” Sharma told The Hoot. Police are investigating but there is no information about the assailants. The newspaper has informed the Director General of Police and will also approach the Home Minister to demand speedy investigation, he said.
Shankar’s death was the second this year, after television journalist Tarun Acharya was killed in Khallikote town of Ganjam district of Odisha on May 27. A stringer for Kanak TV, he had written a news report in the local daily Sambad on the alleged employment of child labour in a cashew processing factory owned by one Prusty.  Police said that Prusty employed three persons to kill Acharya, but managed to nab only one of them more than two weeks after local journalists launched a strong protest over the killing.
In Guntur district too, local journalists have staged protests over the killing. The Indian Journalists Union (IJU), Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ) and Andhra Pradesh Newspaper Employees Federation condemned the murder. Shankar was an activist of the APUWJ and honorary President of the local press club, said the IJU Secretary - General Devulapalli Amar.
The IJU statement said that Shankar was killed for his reportage against mafia of illegally selling rationed essential items supplied through Public Distribution System in black market. The organisation demanded that police nab the culprits and that the Government of Andhra Pradesh pay an ex-gratia of Rs. 10 lakhs to the family of the slain journalist.

Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Nimmakayala China Rajappa ordered a probe into the journalist’s murder. 

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