RSF releases 2021 World Press Freedom Index
Paris, April 21 : Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières – RSF) has said that India still remains a country that is “bad” for journalism and it ranks 142nd out of 180 countries, the same position it held last year.
RSF in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index labelled India as “one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly”. It cited police violence against journalists, “ambushes” by political activists, and “reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt officers”.
The report pointed out 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.
The report maintained that 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. It said 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. It noted that “criminal prosecutions” are used to “gag” journalists critical of authorities, including charges of sedition.
In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the RSF report said, journalists still cope with “utterly Orwellian content regulations”. It said that the Editors Guild of India issued a statement on April 17, 2021 urging the Indian police in IIOJK to withdraw its advisory forbidding journalists from reporting live during cordon and search operations in the territory, calling it “draconian and undemocratic”. It said, earlier this month, the police said they would take legal action against media professionals who come close to the sites of CASOs or near scenes of ‘law and order’ situations.
In its statement, the Guild said the police was “giving an impression of trying to maintain peace by attempting to control the fallout of violence in a high strung environment” but what it was actually doing was an “attempt…to escape from any kind of media scrutiny”.
The RSF report also mentioned the statement of Nadia Whittome, a British MP of Indian origin from the Labour party, wherein she maintained that Modi government-controlled media has demonised protesting farmers as Sikh separatists. Whittome put out a video on Twitter saying as a granddaughter of Punjabi farmers she was proud to stand in solidarity with the “millions resisting Modi’s regime”.
She said farmers from across India, cutting across gender, religious, and caste lines, were protesting against the new farm laws that “threaten” livelihoods. “In response, in order to stoke communal violence,” she added, “Indian government-controlled media has demonised protesters as Sikh separatists.”
It is to mention here that Norway is ranked number 1 in the index, followed by Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Costa Rica. At the bottom of the index is Eritrea, with North Korea and Turkmenistan preceding it.