Indian authorities need to look into the death of journalist Hemchandra Pandey who was killed early this month in an encounter in Andhra Pradesh, a top U.N. official said.
“I am concerned about the circumstances in which Hem Chandra Pandey was killed and I urge the authorities to shed full light on the conditions under which it occurred,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Pandey, 30, who worked for several Hindi-language newspapers, was killed along with Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad on July 2.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom.
Pandey’s wife Babita told journalists on July 4 that her husband had left for Nagpur on June 30 on assignment and been unavailable on his mobile phone since then.
Shortly after the incident was reported, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed shock and also called for an inquiry.
“Hem Chandra Pandey, like any journalist, was well within his rights in seeking to interview an insurgent leader, especially in the context of ongoing peace moves,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said last week.
“The IFJ extends its solidarity to Babita Pandey and the family of the killed journalist, and welcomes the Andhra Pradesh Home Minister’s announcement of a full inquiry,” she added.
Ms. Babita has stated that the incident was a fake encounter and has asked for a probe by the Central government because she does not trust the State authorities to be honest.
Human rights groups in India and civil liberty activists have called for a Central investigation.
Noting that Pandey was a contributor to leading Hindi-language dailies such as Nai Duniya, Rashtriya Sahara and Dainik Jagaran, IFG said, “a portfolio of his recent writings shows a well-informed engagement with issues of wide social concern, such as inflation, food security and climate change. Nowhere does it reveal an advocacy of violence.”