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India ranks No 24 in Free Expression Index among 38 countries: American think-tank Pew International survey

By Rajiv Shah
Well-known US-based think-tank, Pew Research Centre, in a new study has found that India ranks No 24 of 38 democratic countries it has surveyed for coming up with Free Expression Index (FEI). The United States ranks No 1 with an FEI of 5.73, followed by Poland (5.66), Spain (5.62), Mexico (5.4), Venezuela (5.17), and Canada (5.18).
The country that ranks the worst is Senegal with an FEI of 2.06. While Jordan ranks second from the bottom an FEI of 2.58, India’s neighbour, Pakistan, despite having a democratic government today, ranks third from the bottom, with an FEI of 2.78. The mean index, however, is 4.07, which is higher than that of India.
A non-partisan think-tank, the Pew study seeks to examine global public opinion about democratic principles. It is based on 40,786 face-to-face and telephone interviews in 38 countries with adults 18 and above, conducted from April 5 to May 21, 2015.
Authored by Richard Wike and Katie Simmons, the study states, “Although many observers have documented a global decline in democratic rights in recent years, people around the world nonetheless embrace fundamental democratic values, including free expression.”
The Pew research finds that 21 per cent of people believe that government should be able to “prevent media organizations from publishing information about large political protests in our country”, as against just 11 per cent in the US, eight per cent in Canada and four per cent in Spain.
Pakistan’s whopping 33 per cent – one of the highest in the world – believe media should be prevented from publishing information on large political protests. The global median here is 21 per cent, almost equal to that of India.
The study shows that 45 per cent of people in India believe that government “should be able to prevent media organizations from publishing information about economic issues that might destabilize the country’s economy”, as against 14 per cent in Canada, 15 per in the US, 16 per cent in 16 per cent in Spain and 14 per cent in Poland. The global median here is 35 per cent.
However, on the issue of publishing information on sensitive issues related to national security, Indians were found to be more found to be liberal.
Thus, 48 per cent in India said the government “should be able to prevent media organizations from publishing information about sensitive issues related to national security”, as against 59 per cent in the US and 56 per cent in Canada. The global median here is 52 per cent.
On the issue of religious freedom, Pew says, “This right is highly valued in the Asia-Pacific region”, where more than “eight-in-ten Pakistanis, Indians and Indonesians describing religious freedom as very important, compared with just 24 per cent in Japan, the lowest share among the countries surveyed.”
Overall Free Expression index across 38 countries surveyed
However, coming to elections, Pew says, it is “considered a central component of democracy, and across the 38 nations”, with a median of 61 per cent think “it is very important to have honest, competitive elections with the choice of at least two political parties”; yet, “there are five nations where fewer than half deem this very important: India, Tanzania, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam.”

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