Bihar-based journalist Raj Deo Ranjan may have been killed by “political mafia” because of his critical reporting, according to a fact-finding committee of the Press Council of India (PCI).
The PCI has accepted the report of the fact-finding committee last week.
Another fact-finding report which the PCI accepted was regarding the murder of Jharkhand journalist Akhilesh Pratap Singh which suggested that he may have been killed over demand of money by a Naxalite group.
In a meeting held on 9 September, the PCI, which is headed by Justice (retd) C K Prasad, also expressed concern over spurt in criminal defamation cases against journalists and has decided to call from all states and Union territories the details of such cases.
In a statement released in New Delhi, the PCI said that in the meeting, two separate Fact Finding Reports related to the murder of two journalists — Raj Deo Ranjan, Bureau Chief, Hindustan, Bihar and Akhilesh Pratap Singh, TV Journalist, Chhatra, Jharkhand — were accepted.
“The finding inter-alia suggested that Raj Deo Ranjan was killed by the political mafia because of his critical reportage and on the other hand, Akhilesh Pratap Singh though not perhaps had been murdered due to professional activities but may be due to demand of money by a Naxalite Group,” the statement said.
The Council sought suitable compensation for the families of the deceased and urged the respective state governments to take the corrective measure to ward off the “fear psychosis prevailing in the media.”
Expressing concern over spurt in criminal defamation cases against journalists, the PCI said it has adjudicated 148 complaints of cases against the press and 38 complaints filed by the Press against the authorities.
It disposed of 558 matters on preliminary stage for default of mandatory requirements under the Press Council Act, 1978.
The PCI statement gave details of the complaint of Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi against the Editor, Reuters (India), New Delhi claiming publication of wrong and mischievous interpretation of an interview.
“The Council after due consideration of the grievance of the complainant is of the opinion that this is the interpretation of news agency and not the actual words used by the Minister and in fact, the news agency in the light of explanation offered by the complainant came out with a clarification on the very next day of publication of the first news item,” the PCI statement said.
It also said that in another complaint regarding the sedition case slapped against Tamil Weekly, “Namadhu Manasatchi”, for publishing report on public health, the Council was of the prima facie opinion that it may be reflecting the true facts but notwithstanding that, the allegation made, does not come within the mischief of the offence of sedition.
“Since the matter is under investigation it advises the Investigation Officer to bear this in mind while making investigations and submitting the report in terms of Section 173 of the Code of Civil Procedure,” the statement said.
The PCI also referred to a complaint on critical review of book, on a complaint filed by Jyoti Sabharwal, Author and Publisher, Stellar, New Delhi against the editor, ‘India Today’, New Delhi.
The Council opined that simply because some of the editors and scholar have commended the book would not mean that the other critique have no right to express a contrary view as every critique has a right to his or her own view, the statement said.
Further, regarding lifting of words, from the book under review by the critique, number of such words used in the review is not decisive as it will depend upon facts and circumstances of each case, it added.
(With PTI inputs)