Press freedom index: India slips; attacks by BJP supporters cited
The report also observed how journalists were often subjected to self-censorship, with the anti-sedition law invoked and criminal prosecutions used to limit the freedom of the press.
NEW DELHI: India has slipped two places to rank 140th among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, 2019 report released by Reporters Without Borders, an international NGO based in Paris, on Thursday. The report notes that attacks against journalists by supporters of the ruling BJP increased in the run-up to the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
Violence against journalists in the form of police violence, attacks by Maoists, and reprisals by criminal groups and ‘corrupt’ politicians were among violations faced by journalists in India, according to the report. While at least six journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018, there were doubts raised in the seventh case, it observed.
These incidents show the growing unsafe conditions under which journalists work, especially in local media outlets in rural areas, it claimed. Coordinated hate campaigns against journalists on social media who speak out on subjects that anger Hindutva followers are alarming and the campaigns are virulent when the targets are women, the report said. The critics are branded as ‘anti-national’ in the current discourse that is shaping up.
The #MeToo movement in the media in 2018 exposed cases of sexual assault and harassment that women reporters are subjected to. The report also observed how journalists were often subjected to self-censorship, with the anti-sedition law invoked and criminal prosecutions used to limit the freedom of the press.
Covering sensitive regions like Kashmir continues to be difficult, with foreign reporters often barred and frequent Internet shutdowns imposed. Kashmiri journalists from local media outlets are also often targets of violence by paramilitary forces, with the Centre’s tacit consent, alleged the report.
Of the 180 countries and territories, 24 per cent are classified as ‘good’ or ‘fairly good’ as opposed to 26 per cent in 2018. The United States ranked 48th, falling three places in this year’s index.