India’s oppressive policies in Kashmir brings down its ranking in World Press Freedom Index

PARIS, France—India’s ranking in World Press Freedom Index has come down by two places as compared to the 2019’s ranking. The RSF has ranked India on 142nd place as compared to its 140th place last year. In 2019, India was ranked on 140th position with an overall score of 45.67.

It is noteworthy here that the freedom of press is considered in difficult situation (red zone) in countries having score in between 35.01 to 55 points. 

“India’s score in this year’s World Press Freedom Index is heavily affected by the situation in Kashmir where, after rescinding the state’s autonomy, the federal government shut down fixed line and mobile Internet connections completely for several months, making it virtually impossible for journalists to cover what was happening in what has become a vast open prison,” notes an illustrative report prepared by RSF about freedom of press in India.

The Reporters sans frontières (RSF) determines the degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.

Read below the full text of RSF’s report on freedom of press in India.

”                                         Modi tightens his grip on the media

With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved. However, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials. Ever since the general elections in the spring of 2019, won overwhelmingly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pressure on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line has increased.

Those who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate. The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers are alarming and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. The campaigns are particularly virulent when the targets are women.

Criminal prosecutions are meanwhile often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment.

India’s score in this year’s World Press Freedom Index is heavily affected by the situation in Kashmir where, after rescinding the state’s autonomy, the federal government shut down fixed line and mobile Internet connections completely for several months, making it virtually impossible for journalists to cover what was happening in what has become a vast open prison.”

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