NEW DELHI: The murder of Gauri Lankesh has received widespread media attention both nationally and internationally, with the foreign media focusing on the Kannada journalist’s professional credentials as well as the environment in which she was killed. Many publications have highlighted the growing threat faced by reporters and activists seen as critical of Hindu nationalists, and several have specifically mentioned the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, saying that party members have “openly attacked journalists.”

“Indian reporters are being increasingly targeted by radical Hindu nationalists, activists say. In the last few years, journalists seen to be critical of Hindu nationalists have been berated on social media, while many women reporters have been threatened with rape and assault. Ministers belonging to India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also openly attacked journalists, using terms like "presstitute" (a mix of press and prostitute) to describe them,” says a BBC article.

“Her killing follows several assassinations of outspoken secularists or rationalists in recent years, including scholar Malleshappa Kalburgi, anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, and author-politician Govind Pansare. The watchdog Reporters Without Borders said that radical nationalist journalists have targeted other writers, with online smear campaigns and threats of physical reprisals. "With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of 'anti-national' thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media," the group said,” the BBC reports.

The New York Times, in an article headlined, “In India, Another Government Critic Is Silenced by Bullets,” states that “lately, the rationalists have been pretty busy. Some followers of India’s governing party have attacked Muslims and pushed a hard-line Hindu agenda. But many Indians don’t share this outlook and have tried to fight back, arguing that India is losing its multicultural identity and becoming more of a one-party, Hindu state. The three other activists killed in a somewhat similar manner in the past four years had also opposed the rise of hard-line Hinduism.”

“Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party had been annoyed with Ms. Lankesh for years and sued her for defamation. The first court to hear the case convicted her and sentenced her to six months in prison last year, but she was granted bail while the case was on appeal,” the article notes.

An editorial in the New York Times is even more hard hitting. “The murder on Tuesday of the Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh, a fearless critic of rising Hindu-nationalist militancy, has all the hallmarks of a hit job,” it begins. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has let a climate of mob rule flourish in India, with his right-wing Hindu supporters vilifying “secularists.” The venom that reactionary social media trolls direct at journalists, or “presstitutes” as they call them, is especially vicious, but not entirely new. At least 27 Indian journalists have been killed since 1992 “in direct retaliation for their work,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Only one of the killers has been convicted,” it says. “This has not happened so far in the murders of other outspoken critics of right-wing Hindu nationalists. Narendra Dabholkar, whose campaigns against superstitious practices angered many Hindu religious activists, was shot to death near his home in Pune in 2013. Two years ago, Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, a former vice chancellor of Kannada University who spent decades debunking peddlers of superstition, was fatally shot in his home in Dharwad. Ms. Lankesh had voiced concern about the climate of menace against journalists who didn’t toe the Hindu-nationalist line. If Mr. Modi doesn’t condemn her murder forcefully and denounce the harassment and threats that critics of Hindu militancy face daily, more critics will live in fear of deadly reprisal and Indian democracy will see dark days,” it reads.

The Guardian, in an article titled, “Indian journalist critical of Hindu extremists is shot dead in Bangalore,” reads, “Gauri Lankesh was the editor of a Kannada-language tabloid that has frequently been critical of Hindu extremists… Lankesh was known as a fierce critic of Hindu nationalist organisations in her state and was convicted of defamation last year for a piece accusing members of the Bharatiya Janata party of theft. She was appealing against the decision… She told the Indian website Newslaundry last year that the “rabid hate” directed at her online had made her fear for the state of free expression in India.”

The article pointed out that the “Press Club of India said in a statement that it believed the murder was linked to Lankesh’s work. “A fearless and independent journalist who gave voice to many causes and always stood up for justice has been shot dead in the most brutal manner in order to silence her voice,” it said.” It added that “the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report last year that 27 journalists had been killed “with complete impunity” in India since 1992. It listed another 25 murders it was investigating to ascertain a connection to the journalist’s work.” “Two years ago in the same state, Karnataka, an outspoken scholar and critic of religious groups, MM Kalburgi, was also shot dead by unidentified assailants,” the article concludes.

An article in the Washington Post puts forth a similar context. “Lankesh was a vocal critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the rising far-right Hindu nationalism associated with his party. Her death follows a string of recent killings that targeted leftist academics and scholars, activists said,” it reads.

Al Jazeera, in an article titled “A 'fearless' Indian journalist silenced” states that “Gauri was seen by many as intrepid and a sympathiser of marginalised communities - a trait that Indian media reported she inherited from her father, P Lankesh, a fearless editor and founder of the independent Kannada language newspaper Lankesh Patrike.Hours before being killed, she had posted a message on her Facebook page condemning the planned deportation of Rohingya refugees by the Indian government.” “Lankesh's death has raised fears over free speech and the right to dissent in India, where far-right Hindu groups have previously attacked people with secular views,” the article states.

Reuters said that “Lankesh was a fierce advocate of secularism and opposed hardline Hindu groups associated with Prime Narendra Modi’s right-wing, nationalist ruling party.” “The murder is a new low in India’s recent record of protecting journalists,” the article added. “Journalists seen to be critical of Hindu nationalists are often insulted on social media, and some women reporters have been threatened with assault. People, including BJP members, have also openly insulted journalists, using terms like “presstitute” - a combination press and prostitute - to berate them. In recent weeks, Lankesh had posted videos on her Facebook page that were critical of Modi’s economic policies and the rise of hardline Hindu groups since he came to power. Last year, she was sentenced to six months in jail after a defamation case was filed by a BJP member. She was released on bail,” the article continues.

The Associated Press notes that “In 2015, an Indian scholar, Malleshappa M. Kalburgi, was killed in a similar way, also in Bangalore. He had received death threats from angry right-wing Hindu groups after he criticized idol worship and superstitious beliefs by Hindus. He was the third critic of religious superstition to be killed in the country in three years. India has long held secularism to be a keystone of its constitution — and a necessity for keeping the peace among its cacophony of cultures defined by caste, clan, tribe or religion, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.”