Why India’s position is not rising on the World Press Freedom Index: exhibit 139 and exhibit 140

Since modern Indian civilisation began in 2014, the Guinness Book of Records has kind-of replaced the Constitution of India and the Bhagwad Gita as the epics to emulate.

Under Narendra Modi, the preferred goals are Olympian—citius, altius, fortius.

Therefore, the world’s largest khichdi, the world’s tallest statue, the world’s largest yoga gathering, the world’s longest monologue without the interviewer butting etc.

And therefore, the prime minister and ministers claiming all sorts of records in road building, electrification of villages, ease of doing business, etc.

One goal, the Modi government has diligently NOT chased is India’s position on the World Press Freedom Index.

Out of the 180 countries on earth, only 40 were worse off than India in 2014 when Modi took over. Since then, 140 improved to become 136, which became 133, but has again risen to 136. and is now settled 138 close to the Manmohan Singh mark of 140.

Screenshot 2019-01-05 at 12.42.28 PM.png

Worse than Ghana.

Worse than Tonga.

Worse than Cote d’Ivoire.

The French advocacy group Reporters sans Frontiers (reporters without borders) which ranks nations on the World Press Freedom Index has this to say about media freedom in  India:

“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals. At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 were targeted in connection with their work. They included the newspaper editor Gauri Lankesh, who had been the target of a hate campaign on social networks. Three other journalists were killed for their professional activity in March 2018. 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. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship. Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult. Foreign reporters are barred from the region and the Internet is often disconnected there. When not detained, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent

Here are two more reasons why India’s position is like to improve very much.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters chief photographer in India Cathal McNaughton not being allowed to return to the country in the wake of his Kashmir coverage.

And freelance writer Mark Scialla being questioned by the police for meeting people affected in the Sterlite copper smelter unit in Tuticorin.

Screenshots: courtesy The Indian Express and The Times of India

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