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In desire to control media, Modi envisages journalism univ by ex-propaganda officials: Global media watchdog

By Our Representative
Thanks to what has been described as “global decline” in press freedom, India has “improved” its ranking in the Press Freedom Index (PFI) from 140 in 2014 to 136 in 2015 and 133 in 2016. Ironically, the “improvement” has come about alongside deterioration of its overall PFI from 40.34 in 2014 to 40.49 in 2015, and 43.17 in 2016. The calculation is based the criterion “higher the figure, the worse the situation”
Released on Wednesday, the 2016 edition of the Paris-based not for profit Reporters Without Borders (RWB), its Global PFI ranking suggests, the only consolation for India is, four of the neighbouring countries – China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma – have been given a worse ranking. Thus, China is at virtually at the rock bottom, ranking 176 out of the 180 countries, Pakistan 147, Bangladesh 144, Burma 143, and Sri Lanka 141.
Interesting though it may seem, Afghanistan is found to rank better than India, at 120, and so do Nepal at 105 and Bhutan at 94. Singapore, often projected as a "heaven", ranks 154.
Commenting on India, RWB blames the Modi government for its “indifference to threats against journalists”, saying, “Journalists and bloggers are attacked and anathematized by various religious groups that are quick to take offence.”
It says, “It is hard for journalists to cover regions such as Kashmir that are regarded as sensitive by the government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems indifferent to these threats and problems, and there is no mechanism for protecting journalists.”
“Instead”, it adds, “In a desire to increase control of media coverage, Modi envisages opening a journalism university run by former propaganda ministry officials.”
It blames the government for taking “little action in response to violence against media personnel”, adding, it was found “sometimes directly involved in violations of their freedom.”
According to RWB, “Frequent lawsuits against journalists by local officials and draconian legislation on defamation and online publications impose major constraints on the media.”
It adds, “Violence has emerged as the main brake on media activity in recent years, especially for reporters in the field and investigative journalists.”
“Wherever they work, Indian journalists are exposed to growing violence. As well as frequent verbal and physical violence, attacks by armed groups are on the rise in several states and the local authorities have had little success in reining it in”, it underlines.
Among comparable BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, other than India and China, Russia scores 148, down 15 points as against India, though South Africa scores a high 29, and Brazil 104.
On China, RWB notes, adding, “The Communist Party took repression to new heights. Journalists were spared nothing, not even abductions, televised forced confessions and threats to relatives.”
Scandinavian countries are found to be among the best performers, with Finland topping the global PFI, followed by the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. United Kingdom ranks 38, United States 41, France 45, and Japan 72.
RWB notes, “The global indicator decline since 2013 is 13.6%.The global indicator has gone from 3,719 points last year to 3,857 points this year, a 3.71% deterioration.”
The RWB works out its ranking based on pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructure and abuse.

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