New Delhi, November 3, 2017: An international index for Press freedom has placed India among the worst nations in the world in terms of independence of the media. Norway stood the best and North Korea the worst among 180 countries in the world. However, India is the best in comparison to her neighbouring countries.
India ranked 136 whereas Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh held 139th, 141st and 146th position respectively. China is the fourth worst nation in the world in terms of Press freedom, securing 176th place.
The 2017 World Press Freedom Index, prepared by international media advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders), ranked India 136th out of 180 countries surveyed for the report. In comparison with its 133rd rank in 2016, it even got worse this year.
Deterioration in the rank is understandable due to the infamous killings of two journalists – Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore and Shantanu Bhowmick in Tripura. A bid to suspend NDTV India’s telecast for twenty hours last year by the Government of India is also one of the reasons for the deterioration in the ranking.
“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media. 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. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship. 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. 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. Journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent,” Reporters Sans Frontiers’ website quoted.