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Criminal gang members kidnap, rape journalist's niece

(RSF/IFEX) - 5 July 2011 - Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that the niece of a journalist based in Bulandshahr, in the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh, was kidnapped for three days and raped by gang members, who mistook her for his daughter.

The police have arrested a member of the gang, which had reportedly threatened the journalist over his reporting and wanted to deter him from testifying in a murder case. The journalist, who reports for a TV news channel and edits a monthly called "Jungsatta", has been identified only by the name of Rizwan.

"We express our full support for Rizwan, his niece and his family," Reporters Without Borders said. "This barbaric violence must not go unpunished. In his reporting and the evidence he gave to the judicial authorities, he courageously fulfilled his journalistic and civic duties. The Indian authorities must now do their duty by bringing this wretched crime's perpetrators and instigators to justice and by providing the journalist and his family with effective protection."

The press freedom organization added: "If the authorities take no measures to punish those responsible, other journalists will be afraid to continue covering criminal cases or any story remotely linked to the underworld and organized crime."

Yasin Bhatola, a known member of a Bulandshahr-based gang led by Mehboob Pandey, was arrested in New Delhi on 1 July on information provided by the Bulandshahr police. Police say Bhatola has admitted to being a member of Pandey's gang.

The "Times of India" quoted deputy police commissioner Arun Kampani as saying: "[Rizwan] was a witness in double murder case (. . .) in which Mehboob Pandey was an accused. Pandey and his associates threatened him with dire consequences if he continued to testify."

The abduction and rape was allegedly carried out by Pandey, Bhatola and three other members of Pandey's gang. Rizwan's family is reportedly now being protected by the Bulandshahr police.

The news of the Uttar Pradesh case has emerged three weeks after Jyotirmoy Dey, an investigative reporter for the newspaper "Mid Day" who specialized in covering organized crime, was gunned down by three men on 11 June in Mumbai. After initially arresting a single suspect, police arrested seven more suspects on 27 June. Mumbai joint police commissioner Himanshu Roy said they were hired by underworld don Chhota Rajan.

Dey was the second journalist to be killed this year in India. The first was Umesh Rajput, a reporter for the newspaper "Nai Duniya", who was gunned down by two masked men on a motorcycle in the east-central state of Chhattisgarh on 23 January.

Reporters Without Borders released a report on 24 February about global organized crime and the fact that it now poses one of the biggest threats to media freedom.

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