India Slips Two Places, Ranks Just One Place Above Pakistan In 2018 World Press Freedom Index
India slipped two places to 138th in the annual press freedom index report released by the Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders), an organisation that monitors attacks on journalists and different forms of censorship across countries. Norway has topped the list, while the United States fell to 45th from 43rd last year.
“Deadly threat from Modi’s Nationalism”, says the Reporters Sans Frontier (RSF) report. It further reads, “With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals. At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 were targeted in connection with their work. They included the newspaper editor Gauri Lankesh, who had been the target of a hate campaign on social networks. Three other journalists were killed for their professional activity in March 2018”.
The report also stated, “In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay”.
The RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said, “The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies”.
To rub salt in the wounds, a report done by The Wire last year showed how our Prime Minister is following hate mongers and trolls on his twitter handle. It further observed that PM Modi is the only leader in the world to follow such handles.
The BJP troll army has garnered most internet space over the past few years. Spreading of fake news, inciting communal disharmony, etc. have been their major agendas.
The report says, “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.”
The last few years have also seen the number of journalist deaths in the rise. In 2017, 11 journalists including Santanu Bhowmik (killed while Covering IPFT movement of Rasta Roko) and Sudi Datta (killed by a trooper, investigating financial irregularities in the paramilitary force) have lost their lives trying to uncover the truth. A prominent journalist, Gauri Lankesh’s murder, brought jitters to the followers of free voice in the country. Prima facie investigations revealed a right-wing hand behind the brutal killing. Rationalists, agnostics and people daring to raise their voices are slowly being silenced too. However, as history has revealed, this silence has only led to more chaos, more noise.
As the right-wing nationalism is increasing by the day, the space for disagreement and dissent is fast fading. The grey in between the black and white is becoming darker, and before it turns black, we need to act.
The Logical Indian believes that in a healthy democracy, journalism questions the government of their actions towards the upliftment of the citizens. World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, exposed the threat to a plurality of expression in the country. With escalating cases of silencing of media, regulations that hinder press freedom need to be revisited.