The National Human Rights Commission on Friday issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and the state's police chief in connection with the murder of a journalist last week in Unnao district over his purported coverage of the sand mafia, a senior official said.
According to reports, the journalist, Shubham Tripathy, worked for Hindi daily Kampu Mail, he said.
The rights panel, in a statement, later observed that "in a democratic system of government, the media is considered as its fourth pillar which cannot be allowed to be victimised by the anti-social elements in such a cruel manner".
The NHRC has taken ognisance of a media report on the murder of the journalist, allegedly by sand mafia, and issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police asking for a detailed report, the official said.
Shubham Tripathy had been reporting about illegal sand mining in the district. Reportedly, his opponents had also lodged a complaint against him with the district magistrate, the NHRC said in the statement.
"The state government has also been directed to get an impartial enquiry into the matter by an independent agency, preferably the state CB CID and to ensure safety of the family of the victim and the witnesses in the matter," it said.
The call details and other forensic evidence gathered during inquiry are to be preserved as the Commission might call them during consideration of the case. The response is expected within four weeks, the statement said.
The Commission in the statement has observed that the news report has mentioned that in many cases media persons have been "targeted by anti-social elements" and in most of the cases "no action against the culprits has been taken by the police authorities".
"It is the duty of the state to provide adequate safety and security to mediapersons who in the public interest, keep taking great risks to highlight the illegal activities prevailing in the society. The death of Shubham Tripathy in this case is a matter of concern for the Commission and also an issue involving violation of human rights," it said.
Earlier on Friday the Press Council of India (PCI) condemned the killing of the journalist and sought a report on it from the Uttar Pradesh government.
Shubham Tripathy was shot in Unnao while he was returning home with his friend on a motorcycle on June 19, Superintendent of Police Rohan P Kanay said. He was rushed to a hospital where he died.