In Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, a small town with a population of some 400,000, around 150 journalists ply their professions undaunted with poor communications and infrastructure, and work with dedication. At this point they are working on the death of one of their colleagues Jagender Singh, who succumbed to injuries after police raided his house in June.
Singh worked with these scribes until a few years ago when he decided social media was a more potent communication platform so he ran a Facebook page where he posted largely unconfirmed stories on corruption involving government officials. He had a following of thousands.
His son Rajan said his father was harassed by the police on a regular basis on the orders of state minister Ram Murti Singh Verma, who was a regular subject of the scribe’s stories.
Rajan said on the day his father died a group of policemen set him on fire during the raid on their home. In a final statement from his hospital bed Mr Singh also accused Verma of setting him on fire.
The minister has denied the allegations supported by the UP government, but following pressure from the national media police have filed an FIR charging the minister and four policemen with murder.
Mr Singh’s family have since received compensation from the state government but they have demanded Verma be suspended as a minister.
Not long after the death of Mr Singh another journalist, Sandeep Kothari from Madhya Praesh was also burned to death for his reports on corruption, specifically in the mining mafia.
Most journalists in small towns don’t have permanent jobs and work as freelancers who are paid a pittance only for published stories
The Press Council of India says 79 journalists have been violently murdered over the past 25 years.