Jyotirmoy Dey, Editor, Special Investigation, Mid-Day, was not the first journalist to be shot dead this year in India. Umesh Rajput from the Hindi daily, Nai Duniya, was killed near Raipur in Chhattisgarh on January 23, and earlier on December 20, 2010 Sushil Pathak of Dainik Bhaskar in Bilaspur. In 2011 alone, there have been 14 instances of attacks on journalists according to a report from ‘The Free Speech Hub' of thehoot.org. On May 19, Dey's colleague Tarakant Dwivedi was arrested under the Official Secrets Act by the Government Railway Police (GRP) for an article written over a year ago in another newspaper on the poor storage conditions of hi-tech weapons bought after the 26/11 attack. However, the gunning down of Dey in broad daylight by four unidentified men has rattled a media inured to gangland killings. The police believe it was ‘the work of professionals,' presumably hired guns connected to the underworld. But the big question is who was behind the killing and so far no one has been arrested. Journalists and media-houses have been attacked with impunity and since the 1990s cases have dragged on forever without any convictions. Coming to Mr. Dwivedi's aid after his arrest, Dey had met Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil and called attention to a rather sensitive Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) report on the mafia-police nexus. The incident underscores the need for some kind of special protection for journalists covering the mafia and conducting investigations on their own. Dey had reported on diesel adulteration in a big way and on alleged links between the mafia and the police.

The Maharashtra government has been promising a law that makes attacks on journalists a non-bailable offence. That may not be the solution. It is crucial to implement existing laws and make sure the guilty are punished. Dey was no stranger to threats and took them head on. His death last Saturday comes soon after a gruesome murder of four men, turning the spotlight back on the pathetic law enforcement in Mumbai. The underworld in the city now is complemented by a powerful builders' lobby, which allegedly has a measure of political and official patronage. Dey's murder can have a chilling effect on the media and to ensure that journalists truly have space and freedom of expression, the government needs to be much more attentive to crime, the factors behind it, and its links, if any, with sections of the official establishment. The state should conduct a transparent and speedy investigation into Dey's murder and, belying its dismal track record, demonstrate that at least now it means business.

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