Veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari was assassinated on Thursday evening by unknown gunmen outside his office in the Indian-administered Kashmir.
Bukhari was shot outside his office in the commercial hub of the region’s main city of Srinagar.
An eyewitness told Al Jazeera that he heard the intense firing which left the journalist along with his two security guards lying in a pool of blood in a car.
“I was just leaving my office when I heard the intense firing. Bukhari had boarded the car and was leaving when he was shot repeatedly from a close range. He died on the spot due to multiple bullet wounds,” said a photo journalist who was present at the scene but did not want to be named.
Doctors declared the journalist and one of his security guards dead on arrival at a local hospital. However, another security guard later succumbed to his injuries, the police said.
Bukhari, who was a group editor for three daily newspapers, was leaving the office of his English daily Rising Kashmir when he was indiscriminately fired upon after boarding his car, according to the police.
No one claims responsibility
Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the police in the region said “preliminary investigational finding indicates this is a terror attack”.
Bukhari’s colleague Yusuf Jameel told Al Jazeera that the “assassination has sent shockwaves among the journalists in the region who have been working in the volatile atmosphere”.
“This has devastated the whole journalist fraternity in the region. But this incident is not the first one. In the past too, we have lost many journalists. This highlights how much difficult conditions journalists are working in Kashmir.”
Bukhari, who was in his 50’s, was assigned security guards after he faced an assassination attempt in 2000.
In the past, Bukhari had served as the bureau chief of Indian national paper The Hindu in Kashmir for more than a decade.
The Editors Guild of India while condemning the attack called on the government to ensure safety and security for the media in the state.
“An attack on a journalist challenges the very foundations of a free press and vibrant democracy and more so in a state like Jammu and Kashmir that is going through militancy. The Guild also calls upon the state and central government to enhance security for all journalists in Jammu and Kashmir,” they said in a statement.
The killing of @RisingKashmir editor, Shujaat Bukhari is an act of cowardice. It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist. Extremely shocked & pained at his death. My thoughts and prayers are with his bereaved family.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) June 14, 2018
Robert Mohoney, deputy executive director for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described the killing as a “blatant attack on the freedom of the press.”
“Journalists working in Jammu and Kashmir have long been subject to a range of threats. Authorities must turn this rising tide of risks by thoroughly investigating this murder and holding the perpetrators to account,” he said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report released in December last year said that the media in Jammu and Kashmir has “walked the razor’s edge” for the past 30 years, facing pressures from all sides of the conflict.
According to the report, twenty-one journalists have been killed due to the conflict – either directly targeted or caught in the cross-fire in Kashmir.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding that the territory is united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict so far.
India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls, where armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.