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A reporter who wrote extensively on crime and corruption was gunned down last week in northern India, the third journalist to be killed in eight days, report Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Vikas Ranjan, a part-time correspondent for the daily paper "Hindustan", was shot dead by armed men on motorbikes as he left his office on 25 November in the Samastipur district of the state of Bihar.

The murder of Ranjan may have been connected to his work, says CPJ. He had been receiving threats for some time. Three of his recent reports on counterfeit merchandise and stolen goods trafficking had sparked official inquiries. RSF reports that he had been investigating local drug trafficking during the past few weeks.

According to RSF, police said that three suspects had been identified and would probably be arrested in the next few days.

Ranjan's relatives and fellow journalists gathered outside the hospital where he was taken and staged a spontaneous protest against the failure of the local police to take action.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has meanwhile asked the authorities of Assam and Manipur, the two other northeastern states where journalists have been murdered in the past two weeks, to carry out effective investigations and to protect journalists.

The spate of murders comes at a time when India is reeling from the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Sabina Sehgal Saikia, a cultural commentator for "The Times of India", India's largest English-language newspaper, was one of the casualties, reports IFJ.

"We mourn all the lives that have been lost and note in particular that the killing of Sabina Sehgal Saikia within hours of the terrorists commandeering the historic Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai has left Indian journalism the poorer," IFJ said.

"The Times of India" and other members of India's media community have played a major role in relaying the horrors of the Mumbai attacks to millions of households in the country.

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- CPJ:
- IFJ:
- IFJ on terrorist attacks:
(3 December 2008)

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