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World Press Freedom Index 2019: India’s Ranking Falls From 138 to 140

"Attacks against journalists by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased in the run-up to general elections in the spring of 2019"

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that compiles an index evaluating the state of journalism in around 180 countries every year, has released its most recent analysis. The 2019 World press Freedom Index reportedly points that hatred against journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has is at 140, dropping two points further from last year (2018).

The press watchdog observes that the number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, “continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media.”

The report notes that in India (down at 140th), critics of Hindu nationalism are branded as “anti-Indian” (or anti-nationals) in online harassment campaigns. India’s ranking is behind countries like Afghanistan, Palestine Myanmar, Malaysia and Maldives.

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According to RSF, atleast six journalists were murdered in 2018. “These murders highlighted the many dangers Indian journalists face, especially those working for non-English-language media outlets in rural areas. Attacks against journalists by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased in the run-up to general elections in the spring of 2019.”

Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Online harassment campaigns, hate campaigns and death threats to journalists who criticise Hindutva, criminal defamation laws as well as the sedition law find a mention in the report as instruments used to gag the media. Additionally, foreign reporters being denied permission to enter Kashmir has also been outlined. “When not detained, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by paramilitaries acting with the central government’s tacit consent,” RSF notes.

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Terrifying enough, the report states that threats, insults and attacks are now part of the “occupational hazards” for journalists in many countries.This shows that an intense climate of fear has been triggered — one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment for the media. Hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have led to an “unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists.”

The Asia-Pacific region, per the survey, ranks third from last. With totalitarian propaganda, censorship, intimidation, physical violence and online-harassment, the region continues to exhibit all of the problems that can beset journalism, it states. 

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