Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Indian media at crossroads

Two aspects that have highlighted Indian media to the world outside should serve as an eye opener to citizens who follow the thumb rule that electoral victories serve as indicators of people’s democratic aspiration. India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has fallen down to 150th position from last year’s 142nd rank out of 180 countries, according to a report by a global media watchdog released on May 5. The index says, media in India, among nations reputed to be more democratic, faces pressure from “increasingly authoritarian and/or nationalist governments”, a transformation seen since PM Narendra Modi took over the reins of the country in 2014. The World Press Freedom Index also says the situation in remains “worrisome” and reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries. A joint statement by the and the Indian Women’s , said attacks on media grew in “myriad ways” India’s ranking, as per the report, fell on the back of increased “violence against journalists” and a “politically partisan media”, which has landed press freedom in a state of “crisis” in the world’s largest democracy. It is ironic that the media of the world’s largest democracy has the among the smallest space for freedom. The index, published on May 5 by Reporters, points to an overall two-fold increase in media polarisation creating divisions within countries, and between countries at the international level. The ranking is a poor reflection of the way India media has been consistently infiltrated by elements who have scant regard for democratic norms of truth and justice. Indian journalists who are too critical of the government are subjected to all-out harassment and attack campaigns by Modi devotees known as ‘bhakts’,” the report says.It also faults India for its policy framework, which is protective in theory but resorts to using charges of defamation, sedition, contempt of court and endangering national security against journalists critical of the government, branding them as “anti-national.” It also highlighted how “under the guise of combatting COVID-19, the government and its supporters waged a guerrilla war of lawsuits against media outlets whose coverage of the pandemic contradicted official statements”. It is cold comfort that the ranking of India’s neighbours, except that of Nepal, have also slid down, with the index placing Pakistan at 157th position, Sri Lanka 146th, Bangladesh 162nd and Myanmar at 176th position, the report released by Reporters Without Borders said. According to the press freedom ranking, in 2013 India was placed at 140th among 179 countries. It maintained its position at the beginning of 2014 at 140th out of 180 countries. In 2015, India rose to 136th position out of 180 nations and in 2016, climbed to 133rd position among the 180 nations. India again dropped three places to 136 in 2017 and further dropped to 138th in 2018. The slide continued and India was placed at 140th position in 2019 out of 180 countries. The fall continued in 2020 when India’s position dropped two places to 142nd out of 180 cuntries. By 2021, India’s position dropped further by five places to 147th and in 2022 its position slid by three places to 150th out of 180 countries. The role played by the Supreme Court in adjudicating freedom, not only of the press but also the citizens, also needs to be re-emphasised and this is a challenge that remains yet to be fulfilled.

Most Read