Skip to main content

Modi supporters blamed for attack on journos, as India slips in press freedom index

By Our Representative
In what may prove to be a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a time when he is seeking a second term in office from India's electorate, the latest rankings released by the high-profile Reporters Without Borders (RWB), based in Paris, shows that India has slipped by two points from 138 in a year to 140 out of 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index, worst since 2015.
In a strongly-worded commentary titled "Attacked online and physically", RWB says, "Violence against journalists – including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters, and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians – is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in India."
Pointing out that "at least six Indian journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018" and "a number of doubts surround a seventh case", RWB says, "These murders highlighted the many dangers Indian journalists face, especially those working for non-English-language media outlets in rural areas."
RWB notes, "Attacks against journalists by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased in the run-up to general elections in the spring of 2019. Those who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of 'anti-national' thought from the national debate."
It continues, "The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that aggravate Hindutva followers are alarming and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered."
Underling that "the campaigns are particularly virulent when the targets are women", RWB says, "The emergence of a #MeToo movement in the media in 2018 has lifted the veil on many cases of harassment and sexual assault to which women reporters have been subjected."
Especially taking strong exception to sedition cases against journalists, it states, "Criminal prosecutions are meanwhile often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which 'sedition' is punishable by life imprisonment. The mere threat of such a prosecution encourages self-censorship."
Referring to press freedom in sensitive regions, RWB says, "Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult. Foreign reporters are barred from Kashmir and the Internet is often disconnected there. When not detained, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by paramilitaries acting with the central government’s tacit consent."
RWB continues, "India’s journalists are being attacked online as well as in the field. All those who dare to criticize Modi’s Hindu nationalist ideology online are branded as 'anti-Indian' scum who must be purged. This results in appalling cyber-harassment campaigns in which journalists are threatened not only with death but also rape (as the troll armies like harassing women journalists, in particular)."
It believes, "Threats, insults and attacks are now part of the 'occupational hazards for journalists in ... India, where critics of Hindu nationalism are branded as 'anti-Indian' in online harassment campaigns."
Among the neighbours, RWB ranks China, "already festering near the bottom of the Index", 177th because of the "monopoly of power" exercised by its president, Xi Jinping, who "amended the constitution in order to be 'president for life' in March 2018."
It comments, "China’s anti-democratic model, based on Orwellian high-tech information surveillance and manipulation, is all the more alarming because Beijing is now promoting its adoption internationally. As well as obstructing the work of foreign correspondents within its borders, China is now trying to establish a 'new world media order' under its control."
Pakistan ranks142nd, down three points, because, says RWB, "The military establishment’s harassment of the media in the run-up to the general election in July 2018 resulted in an increase in censorship comparable to the worst moments during Pakistan’s military dictatorships."
India's ranking for last four years
It adds, "Reporters are also exposed in the field in Pakistan, where the environment is extremely unsafe. At least three were killed in connection with their work in 2018."
Interestingly, even as describing the security situation in Afghanistan, where 16 media professionals were killed in connection with their reporting, nine of them in a double bombing that explicitly targeted the press, as "worrying", RWB ranks the country 121st, giving credit to "the government’s efforts."
As for other neighbours RWB says, "Although less dramatic, the situation was also worrying in Bangladesh (150th), where reporters covering protests and the election were the targets of unprecedented violence", adding, "Physical violence against journalists is encouraged by the fact that the perpetrators usually enjoy complete impunity, as is still the case in Sri Lanka (126th)."
Then, "The use of social networks is also worrying in Myanmar (138th), where disinformation and anti-Rohingya hate messages spread on Facebook without being moderated, benefitting the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who reacted with a deafening silence to the seven-year jail sentences imposed on Reuters journalists Wa Loneand Kyaw Soe Oo in September 2018 for trying to investigate the Rohingya genocide."
RWB ranks Norway first for the third year running, while Finland (up two places) has taken second place from the Netherlands (down one at 4th). At the bottom of the Index, both Vietnam (176th) and China (177th) have fallen one place, Eritrea (up 1 at 178th) is third from last, despite making peace with its neighbour Ethiopia, and Turkmenistan (down two at 180th) is now last, replacing North Korea (up one at 179th).
Especially commenting on Singapore, widely regarded by many as a developmental model India must follow, RWB says, "The Chinese system of total news control is increasingly serving as a model for other anti-democratic regimes such as Singapore (151st), which has established self-censorship as the norm, Brunei (152nd) and Thailand (136th)."
Among other major countries, Russia is down one, ranking 149th, because "the Kremlin has used arrests, arbitrary searches and draconian laws to step up the pressure on independent media and the Internet", and the United States ranks 48th, down three, "as a result of an increasingly hostile climate that goes beyond Donald Trump’s comments."
Calling media climate US “problematic”, RWB says, "Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection."

Providing classification, RWB says, "Only 24 percent of the 180 countries and territories are classified as “good” (coloured white on the Press Freedom Map) or “fairly good” (yellow), as opposed to 26 percent last year." India is coloured red, suggesting it is one of the 29 percent countries where the situation is categorised as "difficult."

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.