Declining freedom of Press in India

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

The sharp fall in press freedom in India speaks volume about the sorry state-of-affairs in the functioning of media in the country today.

The annual Press Freedom Index, prepared and released recently by Reporters Without Border (RSF), placed India at 161st position of the 180 countries.

The Paris (France)-based media watchdog put North Korea at the rock bottom of the list. Besides, North Korea, the three countries at the bottom of the ranking were China (179), Vietnam 9178) and Iran (177). Surprisingly, Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (152) outperformed India.

Interestingly, most of the mainstream news channels, barring a few widely-viewed news portals, skipped the report for obvious reason.

The more concerning fact about the press freedom index was the narrowing gap between India and countries with autocratic and dictatorship governments, like North Korea, Myanmar (173). These countries are best known for human rights violation, dictatorships and their disregard for democratic values.

The RSF described India as one of the most dangerous countries in the world with reports of killing of an average of three to four journalists every year.

In 2022, two journalists were killed in India, while one journalist has been killed since January this year.

The fact sheet pointed out that concentration of media ownerships, politically controlled media and violence against journalist are the factors responsible for decline in press freedom in India.

“The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media and the concentration of media ownership all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in the world’s largest democracy since 2014,” the RSF said.

Today, journalists, who are critical of the government and question it, are subjected to all-out harassment.

 “Charges of defamation, sedition, contempt of court and endangering national security are increasingly used against journalists critical of the government. These repeated violations undermine media self-regulatory bodies, such as the Press Council of India and the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre,” the report said.

Arunachal Pradesh too, does not hold a very good record, when it comes to functioning of media.

The vandalization of the office of this daily by miscreants and the murder attempt of its deputy  editor by unidentified gunman in 2012 tell about the vulnerabilities of media houses and journalists in Arunachal Pradesh, where media is still at nascent stage.

It is a bitter truth that the mainstream media (popularly known as godi media) has become the voice of and for people in power, but not of the masses.

They are busy spreading government propaganda, falsehood and hatred. Rising prices of essential commodities, problem of unemployment etc. are never issues of importance for them.

The question is, is India really heading towards dictatorship under the present regime?