World Press Freedom index: India remains “one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists”

Photo: Mubashir Hassan/Maktoob

India became one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly, according to a World Press Freedom Index 2021 published by the international journalism not-for profit body, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The latest index released on Tuesday ranks 180 countries, topped, yet again by Norway while Eritrea is at the bottom.

India is ranked 142, same as last year. Neighbouring countries Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, Myanmar (before the coup) at 140, Pakistan at 145 and Bangladesh at 152.

“Ever since the general elections in the spring of 2019, won overwhelmingly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pressure has increased on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line. Indians who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to radical right-wing Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the public debate. The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers are terrifying and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered,” the global body of journalists observed.

It also claimed that the campaigns are particularly violent when the targets are women journalists.

“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,” RSF said.

According to RSF, in 2020, the saffron party led government took advantage of the coronavirus crisis to step up its control of news coverage by prosecuting journalists providing information at variance with the official position.

The journalists body also noted the situation in the valley.

“The situation is still very worrying in Kashmir, where reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries and must cope with utterly Orwellian content regulations, and where media outlets are liable to be closed, as was the case with the valley’s leading daily, the Kashmir Times,” it said.