NEW DELHI: The Central Government is not in agreement with the conclusions drawn by Reporters Without Borders about press freedom in India, Minister of State Home Affairs Nityanand Rai informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Citing various reasons such as low sample size, the minister stated that the methodology adopted is questionable and non-transparent and lacks a clear definition of press freedom.
In a written reply to a question on India being placed at 142nd position (out of 180 countries) in the World Press Freedom Index last year, Rai said: "The World Press Freedom Index is published by a foreign NGO called 'Reporters Without Borders'. The government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings, and does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organisation for various reasons including very low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, adoption of a methodology that is questionable and non-transparent, lack of clear definition of press freedom, etc."
The question was raised by Congress MP Manish Tewari.
On queries regarding journalists in Kashmir and other parts of the country being booked under the Indian Penal Code, UAPA, and other laws, the minister stated that the Government is committed to ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
"Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory autonomous body, has been set up under the Press Council Act, 1978, mainly to preserve the freedom of the press and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country. The PCI considers complaints filed by the press concerning curtailment of press freedom, physical assault/ attack on journalists, etc, under Section 13 of the Press Council Act 1978," said the reply.
It further said that the PCI is also empowered to take suo-motu cognizance in matters on the pressing issues concerning freedom of press and safeguarding of its high standards.
Tewari also sought to know about details of persons arrested under UAPA and their conviction. "National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) compiles the data on crime as reported to it by the States and Union Territories and publishes the same in its annual publication 'Crime in India'. As per the latest published report, the number of cases registered is 796, persons arrested is 1321, persons acquitted is 116, and persons convicted is 80 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the country during the year 2020," said the reply.