The fall in India’s position in the latest World Press Freedom Index reflects the sorry state of affairs. The country has slipped 11 places – from 150 to 161 – in the 2023 Index of 180 countries released annually by the Paris-based international non-profit organisation Reporters without Borders (RSF). In the 2022 report, India’s rank dropped from 142 to 150. The trend suggests that the situation in India is getting worse each year. The reports of Hindutva forces, emboldened by the ideological position of the ruling dispensation at the Centre, trying to muzzle the voices of dissenting media are causing alarm. No wonder the opposition Congress in poll-bound Karnataka has promised to ban Bajrang Dal if it is voted to power in the assembly elections. The RSF index’s report notes that, with an average of three or four journalists being killed in connection with their work every year, India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media.
This is a poor commentary on the state of media freedom in a country that takes pride in being the world’s largest democracy. The World Press Freedom Index highlights the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations and netizens have in each country, and the government’s efforts to respect such freedom. In the last two decades, India, which was ranked 80th on the index in 2002, has seen its press freedom ranking progressively plummet. The country profile by RSF on India also says that the Indian press used to be seen as fairly progressive but things changed radically from 2014 onwards when Narendra Modi became the prime minister.