India Wednesday found itself three ranks down in the latest World Press Freedom Index report released by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. India was placed at 136th rank, three points down from 2016 rank of 133. The media watchdog placed India in the “difficult situation” slot like that of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In its annual analysis report, the media watchdog said that, “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”.
The report mentioned internet ban after July 8, 2016, in the Kashmir valley to prevent communication between protesters and prevent coverage by the media and citizen journalists.
“Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult, and there are no protective mechanisms,” the report said.
“Journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent,” the report says.
The analysis report further said that 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.
It said that no journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship.
The analysis report by the media watchdog said that the media freedom was never so threatened.
“RSF’s “global indicator” has never been so high (3872). This measure of the overall level of media freedom constraints and violations worldwide has risen 14% in the span of five years. In the past year, nearly two thirds (62.2%) of the countries measured* have registered a deterioration in their situation, while the number of countries where the media freedom situation was “good” or “fairly good” fell by 2.3%”.
Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries, including the level of pluralism, media independence, and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists.
The 2017 Index takes account of violations that took place between January 1st and December 31stof 2016.
The top spot in the report has been taken by Norway replacing Finland. At the other end of the Index, Eritrea (179th) has surrendered last place to North Korea for the first time since 2007, after allowing closely-monitored foreign media crews into the country.
According to the analysis, North Korea (180th) continues to keep its population in ignorance and terror – even listening to a foreign radio broadcast can lead to a spell in a concentration camp.