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Journalist murdered in Assam State

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 21 November 2008 IFJ media release:

Journalist Murdered in India's Assam State

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked and outraged at the murder of journalist Jagajit Saikia in India's north-eastern state of Assam on November 22.

According to the Journalists' Union of Assam (JUA), a unit of the IFJ-affiliated Indian Journalists' Union (IJU), Saikia was shot by a group of armed men as he proceeded by motorcycle from his office. The incident happened at 1:30pm in a busy commercial area in the town of Kokrajhar.

Saikia, a correspondent for the Assamese language daily Amar Asom, suffered five bullet wounds to the chest and one to his head. He was declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

Saikia is the second journalist murdered in India's north-east in the past week. On November 17, Konsam Rishikanta, 22, was killed in Imphal, capital of the state of Manipur.

In Assam alone, 16 journalists have been killed since 1991. In April, Badosa Narzary, owner of local channel BL TV, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kokrajhar.

Police sources reportedly said that based on a preliminary examination of the used bullets recovered from the spot, any one of the militant groups active in the area could be responsible for Saikia's murder.

Kokrajhar was among five towns in Assam targeted by a series of bomb blasts on October 29 in which more than 80 people were killed. Security agencies have since taken into custody militant cadres of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), one of many armed outfits fighting for the political autonomy of the Bodo tribal group in Assam. India's Government has re-imposed a ban on the NDFB under a law covering "unlawful activities".

The NDFB, which entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government in 2005, denied involvement in the bombings.

Sources in Assam inform the IFJ that Saikia maintained contacts with the NDFB as part of his professional work.

"The IFJ appeals to State security agencies and militant groups in India's north-east to respect the right of journalists to access information from all sides of a conflict situation," the IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"This requires, above all, that the non-combatant status of journalists in zones of armed conflict and insurgency be treated as an inviolable principle, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 which obliges all parties to a conflict to protect journalists reporting in conflict areas."

The IFJ extends its sympathy to Saikia's family and supports the JUA in its protest campaign, which begins tomorrow, demanding action to end violence against media personnel in Assam.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

For further information on the Rishikanta case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98725

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