RSF issues warning on Press Freedom in India

ITANAGAR, Jul 4: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has for the first time issued an Incident Report, on freedom of the press in India, after the murder of a fourth journalist in less than six months and a sharp rise in hate speech.
In view of the increase in breaches of press freedom in India in the past six months, the Incident Report examines the country’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index, the global benchmark for media freedom.
On 3 July, RSF secretary-general, Christophe Deloire, wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling him that the Incident Report had been issued in relation to press freedom in the country, and asking him to take urgent action.
An Incident Report is issued when events are observed that could affect a country’s ranking based on one or more of the indicators that are used in the evaluation for the World Press Freedom Index.
In its letter, RSF notes that “in the first six months of 2018, at least as many reporters were killed as for the whole of 2017, while hate speech directed toward journalists has increased massively, causing serious concern for their safety.”
The RSF has recommended establishment of a system capable of ensuring the safety of journalists at risk and, especially, of providing proper protection for those who say they have been threatened, swift and independent investigation of cases where journalists have been murdered, or have been the targets of attempted murder, in order to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators and instigators of such crimes, better training for law enforcement officers in how to ensure the safety of journalists and to let them do their job, and to penalize appropriately any police officers and members of the armed forces who deviate from these rules, including those who give the orders.
The RSF also called on the representatives of the government and the ruling party to condemn in the strongest terms online campaigns of hate and harassment aimed at journalists and to show transparency concerning the BJP’s notorious IT cell and its activities.
Furthermore, RSF recommends that commercial divisions of news organizations draw up a code of practice that allows journalists to do their work impartially and without fear of censorship and it also called on digital platforms to show greater transparency and responsibility in regulating their content, particularly concerning hate messages and threats directed at journalists.
In the 2018 Index, published in April this year, India occupied the 138th position out of 180 countries, two places lower than in 2017, and the situation has continued to deteriorate.
As a result, the abuses and environment indicators, which contribute to the country’s evaluation for the Index, show a negative trend and point to another decline in its ranking in the 2019 edition unless the authorities take steps to rectify the situation.