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Modi brand nationalism blamed for India's deteriorating World Press Freedom Index: Pakistan improves by 8 points

By Our Representative
Ranking India 136th in World Press Freedom Index (WPFI), the prestigious international non-profit, non-government organization Reporters, Without Borders (RWB) has directly blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s politics for the country deteriorating its ranking by three points in a year.
Pointing out that there is a “threat from Modi’s nationalism” to press freedom in India, RWB says, “With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media.”
According to RWB, “Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals. 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.”
While RWB, which has the status of consultants with the United Nations and is headquartered in Paris, says, “no journalist has so far been convicted of sedition”, it nevertheless notes, “But the threat encourages self-censorship.”
RWB especially underlines, “The government has also introduced new foreign funding regulations to limit international influence. Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult, and there are no protective mechanisms.”
Pointing out that “on the first day of a wave of protests in Kashmir in July 2016, the Internet was cut by the military and was often interrupted thereafter to prevent communication between protesters and prevent coverage by the media and citizen journalists”, RWB says, “Journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent.”
The only consolation for India is, Pakistan ranks 139th, just about three points worse than India, though what should be worrying India is, it has improved its ranking by eight points in a year. Among other neighbours, Bangladesh ranks 146th, Nepal 110th, Sri Lanka 141st, and China, which has a Communist controlled government, 176th – one of the worst in the world.
RWB has two primary spheres of activity: one is focused on Internet censorship and the new media, and the other on providing material, financial and psychological assistance to journalists assigned to dangerous areas.
Its missions monitoring attacks on freedom of information worldwide, denouncing any such attacks in the media, act in cooperation with governments to fight censorship and laws aimed at restricting freedom of information, and assist morally and financially persecuted journalists, as well as their families.
RWB finds US and Britain slipping by two places to 43rd and 40th positions respectively, while Norway comes out top of the index with the world's freest media, and North Korea taking bottom place.
Published every year since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index is claimed to an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. “Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing, many heads of state and government fear its annual publication”, it adds.
According ot RWB, “The index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.”
However, it clarifies, the RWB “does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.”

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