Modi hostile to media, Kashmir turning into news black hole
Paris: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concern about press freedom in India and urged the prime minister to protect journalists and their work “instead of disparaging them”.
The RSF statement came after the BJP’s latest election victory in the small northeastern state of Tripura, where two journalists were killed in the space of two months last autumn.
The statement also described Indian prime minister as hostile to media who prefers Twitter to press conferences, and said that Kashmir was turning into a news black hole.
“The press freedom situation is worsening on many fronts in India, with unpunished murders of journalists, arbitrary detention, obstruction of reporters, and hostility from the authorities towards their critics,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“With a year to go to the next general elections, we urge the federal authorities to take concrete steps to end the growing harassment of news and information providers, which is encouraging self-censorship.”
The statement said that India is one of the world’s deadliest countries for reporters, with at least ten murdered in connection with their work since the start of 2015, four of them in recent months.
“Acts of violence against journalists are on the rise but most of them go unpunished and the government is doing nothing to protect media personnel,” the RSF said.
Giving examples of the murder of journalists including Gauri Lankesh, a newspaper editor who was well known for her criticism of Hindu nationalism, Shantanu Bhowmick, Sudip Datta Bhaumik, who were killed a few months apart in Tripura, Navin Gupta who was gunned down in northern India in December, the statement remarked that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said nothing about this surge in violence against journalists “although he is very active on Twitter and has been much criticized for being a subscriber to the account of a nationalist who welcomed Lankesh’s murder”.
The statement added that Kashmir was turning into a news black hole and cited the detention of Kamran Yousuf, a 23-year-old Kashmiri photojournalist for the past six months.
“The persecution of Yousuf by the authorities – who say he is not a “real journalist” because he never covered “developmental activity” or the “inauguration of [a] hospital or school building” – clearly shows that they want to use him as an example to deter other Kashmiri reporters from covering the conflict,” the statement said.
It added that Indian authorities do their best to impose silence on the situation in the Indian-ruled part of Kashmir by frequently disconnecting the Internet, banning foreign journalists and harassing Kashmiri reporters.
It also pointed out that it was getting hard for foreign journalists to get visas that allow them to report in India.
“The procedures and requirements for obtaining the “journalist” visa that all journalists need, even to visit India as tourists, are extremely demanding. Last month, for example, an Australian journalist with ABC, Amruta Slee, was asked, after a long wait, to provide a list of potential interviewees and even to have someone “accompany” her.”
Describing prime minister as hostile, the statement said that Prime Minister Modi prefers Twitter to press conferences for making his views known.
“He uses social networks – on which he is supported by an army of Internet users who harass and threaten critical journalists with complete impunity – and has given interviews to just a handful of pro-government media outlets.”
India is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.