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‘Pressure to toe Hindutva line’ sees India drop to 142 on World Press Freedom Index

The ranking by Reporters Without Borders cited 'police brutality and hate campaigns on social media by Hindutva followers against journalists' to explain India's position.

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New Delhi: India has dropped to rank 142, two points below its 2019 rank, in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index unveiled Tuesday.

The annual press freedom list is produced by the campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which surveys the state of the media in 180 countries and territories.

RSF’s latest report attributes India’s rank to the Narendra Modi government “tightening” its grip on the media, and pressuring it to “toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line”.

Among other issues, it has listed coordinated social media hate campaigns against journalists reporting on issues that “annoy Hindutva followers”, criminal prosecutions to gag journalists critical of authorities and police violence against journalists.

The report also suggests that India’s rank is heavily affected by the situation in Kashmir, where it has become “virtually impossible” for journalists to do their job.

“With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved. However, there have been constant press freedom violations,” the group said.

Among the nations with the top ranks are Scandinavian countries Norway, Finland and Denmark, while countries like North Korea (180), Vietnam (175) and Syria (174) were some of the lowest ranked. India ranked better than its neighbours Pakistan (145) and Bangladesh (151), but worse than Sri Lanka (127) and Nepal (112).

Pakistan dropped three places from its 2019 ranks due to the influence of the military establishment under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rule, which the report states “cannot stand independent journalism”.

According to the report’s barometer, in the year 2020 so far, across the world, 10 journalists have been killed, 229 imprisoned and 116 citizen journalists imprisoned while one media assistant was killed and 14 media assistants imprisoned across the world.

Also read: ‘Assault on press freedom’ — Editors Guild seeks MHA action against attack on journalists

Online and physical attacks in India

Between 2013-14, India’s rank remained at 140, while it marginally improved to 133 and 136 in the subsequent years but dropped to 140 in 2019 following Prime Minister Modi’s resounding success in the Lok Sabha elections.

Although it noted that no journalists were killed last year, the report said it was alarming to see a visible rise of those who espouse Hindutva and their efforts to “purge” anti-national elements from national debates, along with hate campaigns that call for the “journalists concerned to be murdered”.

These campaigns, RSF said, are particularly violent when targeting women. The RSF report flags the use of Section 124a of the Indian Penal Code, which includes life imprisonment for sedition, as being used to often gag journalists critical of the establishment.

India’s 2020 score has also been influenced by the situation in Kashmir, where after the abrogation of Article 370, the clampdown on communication and internet and phone services made it very difficult for journalists to operate.

The report also made mention of three incidents of journalists being imprisoned in the recent past — Newsclick’s Gautam Navlakha, Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy from Gauri Media and Kashmir Narrator’s Aasif Sultan.

Also read: On World Press Freedom Day, a look at what Indian journalists have to deal with

The best and the worst

At the lowest rank of 180, North Korea scored the worst in terms of press freedom due to its leader Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian regime that has kept its citizens in a “state of ignorance”.

The report laid out how under his regime, Kim Jong-Un has complete control over communication, and that North Koreans today could be sent to concentration camps just for viewing, reading or listening to content provided by a media outlet based outside the country.

Noting how press freedom at the time of a pandemic like coronavirus is crucial, RSF critiqued Kim Jong-un’s regime for maintaining that the official number of coronavirus cases remain at zero, while his capital appeals for help to the international community in battling the virus.

In this regard, China, ranked at 177, has also been critiqued for how Covid-19’s spread was facilitated by censorship and pressure on a whistleblower, yet the country continues to further tighten control over the media.

With a rank of 45, the US improved three points since 2019 but arrests, physical assaults, public denigration and the harassment of journalists continued in 2019 under President Donald Trump’s administration.

Norway, which has consistently ranked number one since 2017, was cited for how its government prizes democracy and freedom of expression, and also noted the recent formation of a special commission meant to conduct comprehensive reviews on conditions of freedom of speech. The commission is meant to specifically look into safeguarding journalists, and come up with ways to curb fake news and hate speech.

Also read: I’m speechless, says J&K journalist Masrat Zahra after being booked for ‘anti-national’ posts


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  1. Some media house is purely against truth looks like militants media you are one from them you illtreate idiots trying to defame sadguru on his AMG wagon without having knowledge that the car sadguru uses is highly environment friendly on the planet

  2. Please ignore the comments made by paid troll armies of BJP. This news is 100% genuine and a cause of worry for us.

  3. This is all wrong and fake reporting by the Communist journalists and Islamist journalists and intellectuals. Who is beating the doctors everyday and everywhere? Who is attacking the police and medical staff? Who is damaging the public property? Who is spitting on eatables? These are not the isolated cases. Everyday and everywhere such insidents are happening. Our police forces are doing very good job under very difficult situation. They are risking their lives for the journalists and minorities. Indian Communists and Islamists are also spreading rumors and lies about the situation in the country and spreading Hinduphobia everywhere. The government of India should book them and arrest them for spreading rumors and fake news and spoiling the image of the nation and Hindus.

    • World Press Freedom Survey is an international Survey that has nothing to do with Indian Communists or Islamists you Low IQ Fascist minded RSS duffer

    • World Press Freedom Survey is an international Survey that has nothing to do with Indian Communists or Islamists you Fascist RSS degenerate. Thank you for giving a glimpse of what a Low IQ RSS troll’s pra sized brain looks like

    • You mean to say World Press Freedom index is run by Indian Communists and Islamists?? Thank you for giving a wonderful glimpse of how it feels like to live the life of low IQ Fascist

    • You mean to say World Press Freedom index is run by Indian Communists and Islamists?? Thanks for exposing your Toxic and Fascist mindset btw

  4. One can understand India taking time to move up in global rankings on hunger and healthcare. Linked to economic development and per capita income. However, press freedoms is something we should be in the top thirty to forty. We have had legendary editors since the time I was a child. With this ranking, coupled with what the global media reports about India, expect a direct impact on the country’s attractiveness as an investment destination. The pursuit of an ideological agenda is hurting in so many ways.

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