New Delhi: India has been placed under nations recognized as “bad” for journalism and is amongst the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, which announced its 2021 World Press Freedom Index. For the second consecutive year, India has headed 142 among 180 nations on the table.
Among India’s adjoining nations, Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, and Myanmar, before the military tactics, features at 140. However, Pakistan and Bangladesh achieved 145 and 152 ranks on the index, respectively. Norway, after Finland and Denmark, has appeared at the top, achieving the first three places respectively. Eritrea is at the bottom, ranked 180. Other countries at the base are China (177), North Korea (179), and Turkmenistan (178).
Describing the grounds for describing India as “bad” for journalism and amid dangerous countries for journalists, Bharatiya Janata Party supporters and the Hindutva ideology have built an environment of bullying for journalists who are crucial of the government by identifying them as “anti-national” or “anti-state”. India delivers the “bad” classification with Brazil, Mexico, and Russia.
The report has also explicitly declared Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a leader of the government who has hardened“his grip on media”. With “four journalists killed in association with their practice in 2020, India is one of the world’s most dangerous nations for journalists trying to do their job properly”, the report mentions. In fact, the UNESCO ‘observatory of killed journalists‘ has it that six, not four, journalists have been executed in India in 2020. On India’s draconian new Information Technology rules to regulate content on digital news media platforms, the RSF report says:
“Given that the index had been worked out before India came out with new rules to “regulate” online news platforms, along with other digital content providers, in February this year, the situation of press freedom in the country has further deteriorated. The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 has been widely criticized, for posing an impediment to a thriving digital news media space.”
The report has divided no words in describing how the BJP-led government under Modi is dangerous to journalism. It states, journalists “are exposed to every kind of attack, including police violence against reporters, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials”. It also figures that 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,” says the report.
The report has also clearly concerned how the Indian government in 2020 took hold of the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict press freedom. It has also noted that the situation in Kashmir is “still very worrying”, as journalists continued to be attacked by police and paramilitary forces, which it says are due to “utterly Orwellian content regulations. While the pro-government media draw out a form of propaganda, journalists who attempt to criticize the government is branded as “anti-state,” “anti-national” or even “pro-terrorist” by supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” says the report.
The report has also emitted light on “extremely violent social media campaigns” made by the BJP and Hindutva supporters that simply call for “public condemnation” of journalists who are critical of the government, and they even go to the area of issuing death threats “especially if they are women”.The report has highlighted the throttling of freedom of expression on social media, and particularly noticed that in India the “arbitrary nature of Twitter’s algorithms also resulted in brutal censorship”. It has also emphasized that “after being bombarded with complaints generated by troll armies about The Kashmir Walla magazine, Twitter suddenly suspended its account without any possibility of the appeal”.
The 2021 report “reveals that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is wholly or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organization”. It has further remarked that “only 12 of the Index’s 180 countries (7%) can claim to offer a favorable environment for journalism”.