Two journalists were killed in India in separate incidents over a period of a less than 24 hours, police and media outlets said on Saturday, reinforcing its status as the most dangerous country for journalists in Asia.
Rajdeo Ranjan, the bureau chief of Hindustan, a Hindu daily, was reportedly shot at close range in the neck and head on Friday evening in the Siwan district of the northeastern state of Bihar. He was killed near the busy Siwan railway station as he was riding his motorcycle, reports say.
Three people have since been detained and are undergoing interrogation, police superintendent Saurabh Kumar Sah told the Press Trust of India (PTI), a news wire service.
"We are trying to retrieve CCTV footage and also looking at phone records of both the deceased and some anti-social elements active in Siwan. Professional reasons seem to be behind the killings and he was definitely killed by a professional gang," Sah said.
Ranjan's murder has been condemned sharply by local politicians. According to India Today, Raghubansh Prasad Singh, the Chief Minister of Bihar's RJD party, said that he would seek the death penalty for those responsible.
"It's not only murder of one journalist but an attack on democracy," Singh said. "Killers of the scribe should be nabbed immediately and should be given capital punishment."
On Thursday night, another journalist, Akhilesh Pratap Singh, who worked with a local news channel, was shot dead in Jharkhand's Chatra district — south of Bihar — in the government area of his village.
Raghubar Das, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, condemned the attack and has urged local police to arrest the assailant as soon as possible, NDTV reports.
The Press Club of India has expressed their "serious concern" at the murders, and suggested that they were part of attempts by "the mafia to muzzle the independent voice of the media."
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based nonprofit, said India was Asia's most dangerous country for journalists in 2015, and the sixth deadliest in the world.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 38 journalists have been killed in India since 1992. Most of the victims were writers, and according to CPJ's research, politics was the most dangerous beat to cover. All of the victims were Indian.
Earlier this year, three gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Karun Misra, the Ambedkar nagar bureau chief for the Hindi daily Jansandesh Times.
The Inspector General A. Satish Ganesh, from the Lucknow-zone, where Misra was killed issued a statement saying that two mining contractors in the area were upset with his coverage of illegal mining in the paper.
"The pair allegedly paid five locals 100,000 Indian rupees (approximately US$1,500) to kill Misra" CPJ writes, adding they were unable to independently verify the accusations.