- India dropped two places in Global Press Freedom Index; ranked 140th out of 180 countries.
- In 2018, India was ranked at 138.
- Attack against journalists increased during last 5 years.
- Hindutva brigades issues call for murder and rape to women journalists.
- At least six Indian journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018.
India is positioned at 140 in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index. The report, released by Reporters Without Borders on Thursday, reveals an alarming trend in harassment and violence against journalists, including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians.
However, India dropped two places on a global press freedom index to be ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the backdrop of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections that flagged as a dangerous time for journalists. India was ranked 138 in 2018. At least six Indian journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018.
The ‘World Press Freedom Index 2019, topped by Norway, reveals an increased sense of hostility towards journalists across the world. Norway topped the list for the third consecutive year while Finland with up two places, acquired second position. Netherlands slips down one place and comes at 4th while Sweden secured third position, lose one place due to an increase in cyber-harassment.
Pakistan and Bangladesh dropped their positions in the index that shows the South Asian region performed poorly on the index. Pakistan dropped three places to 142 while Bangladesh dropped four places and comes at 150. From the bottom, Both Vietnam (176th) and China (177th) have fallen one place and Turkmenistan (down two at 180th) is now last, replacing North Korea (up one at 179th).
“These murders highlighted the many dangers Indian journalists face, especially those working for non-English-language media outlets in rural areas. Attacks against journalists by supporters of ruling regime increased in the run-up to the elections in the spring of 2019,” said the report.
“Those who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of questioning, reasoning and different thought from the national debate. The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social network sites against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that aggravate Hindutva followers are alarming and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered”, the report added.
The report points out that campaigns are particularly virulent when the targets are women. It highlights the #MeToo movement that ‘lifted the veil’ on many cases of harassment and sexual assault to which women reporters have been subjected.
The report also brings the Kashmir matter to the fore and says that foreign journalists are barred from Kashmir and the internet is often disconnected. “When not detained, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by paramilitaries acting with the central government’s tacit consent”, it says.
The World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom based on multiple parameters such as level of pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, the legal framework, transparency and the quality of infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
Freedom of free speech and expression came under restriction and curtailed since coming of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in the centre in 2014. Media outlets soon began to feel the pressure and gag orders from the right wing power centre.
Ravish Kumar, in his book The Free Voice,says that between 2014 and late 2017, 42 people were arrested or had cases filed against them for ‘objectionable remarks’ against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath or members of other political parties.
On June 9 of 2017, a Caravan reporter, Basit Malik was reportedly beaten up in Delhi after being identified as a Muslim. The infamous case of 2016 whereby two Indian Express journalists were allegedly attacked by lawyers inside the Patiala House court complex in Delhi for ‘trying to accurately cover the sedition charges against Kanhaiya Kumar. The lawyers shouted ‘Desh Ke Gaddar’ (traitors) before they attacked.