India has moved down three places since last year in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by international free speech advocate Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The entire report can be read here.
India’s ranking is now to 136 in a list of 180 countries. The low ranking performance has been blamed on PM “Modi’s nationalism” and increasing “self-censorship” in the mainstream media. RSF said:
“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media. Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals. Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124A of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship.
Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult and there are no protective mechanisms. On the first day of a wave of protests in Kashmir in July 2016, the Internet was cut by the military and was often interrupted thereafter to prevent communication between protesters and prevent coverage by the media and citizen journalists. Journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent.”
The Press Freedom Index
The Press Freedom Index is a yearly ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders. This is based on the organisation’s own evaluation of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year. The aim is to identify the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations and citizens have in every country, in addition to the efforts made by authorities to value this freedom. It is important to note that the index by Reporters Without Borders only identifies press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism nor does it focus on human rights violations generally.
The index, which was released on 26th April 2017, showed India’s ranking which was just three places above Pakistan’s (ranked 139) and was one notch below war-torn Palestine (ranked 135). Other neighbouring countries of India, Bhutan and Nepal were ranked 84th and 100th respectively.
In the index report about India, RSF had been critical of social media and internet gag in Kashmir and said that in the absence of any protective mechanism, coverage of sensitive regions continued to be “very difficult”.
The top four positions in the index were occupied by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The United States was ranked 43rd. Various African countries are also ranked above India, with Central Africa (113), Nigeria (122), among many others.
China was described as the “world’s leading prison for citizen journalists” with its 176th position on the index. North Korea with its bottom position was considered the having the least press freedom by the report.
The Logical Indian hopes to see India’s press freedom improving in the future to bring in more transparency, productive, and unbiased news to the audience. As much as unreliable reports should be discouraged, reliable and verified news should be taken in its right spirit by the readers to improve the press freedom in India.