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Trainee journalist gunned down in Manipur for unknown motives; local media stage protests

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the fatal shooting on 17 November 2008 of Konsam Rishikanta, a young trainee journalist employed by the "Imphal Free Press", a privately-owned English-language daily based in Imphal, the capital of the northeastern state of Manipur.

"We support the strikes announced by the local press in protest against this cowardly murder, as they could help to prevent it being left unpunished," Reporters Without Borders said. "Both the Manipur state government and the federal authorities must ensure that the murder investigation has the resources it needs to establish the motive and identify those responsible."

Police found Rishikanta's body in a deserted alley in the middle of the afternoon of 17 November. He had been shot three times. Neighbours reportedly said they heard a total of 10 gunshots. The motive for the murder is not yet known and no group has claimed responsibility.

"Imphal Free Press" journalist Pradip Phanjoubam said Rishikanta had been expected at the newspaper for the night shift. He added that he did not think the shooting was linked to any report published in the newspaper. Rishikanta's family said he had gone that morning to the company where he used to work to request pay that was still due to him and never returned.

The "Imphal Free Press" received several puzzling calls that day asking if Rishikanta had arrived at the newspaper. A short while after receiving the calls, the "Imphal Free Press" learned from other newspapers that his body had been discovered.

All the Imphal-based daily newspapers decided at an emergency meeting at the Manipur Press Club to stage a four-day strike in protest against the murder. The All Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU) announced that it would suspend all publications and TV broadcasts for an unspecified period beginning 20 November.

The members of the union also called on Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh to ensure that the murder was investigated promptly. Singh promised that everything possible would be done to arrest Rishikanta's killers.

Journalists in Manipur are often threatened by both the security forces and armed separatists. There have been several cases of journalists in the state being shot by unidentified gunmen in recent years.

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