The phase “Modi tightens his grip on media” is neither said by any political party nor by any journalist but by 2021 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international Journalism not-for-profit body. Free media is considered the 4th pillar of any democracy.
As per the RSF, Freedom of expression and information will always be the world’s most important freedom. based in Paris, Reporter Without Border (RSF) is an independent NGO with consultative status with the UN, UNESCO, The council of Europe, and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF).
The latest index released on Tuesday ranks 180 countries, topped, yet again by Norway followed by Finland and Denmark, while the least ranked was Eritrea. China ranked 177 out of 180 countries while North Korea at 179 and Turkmenistan at 178.
India is ranked 142, the same as last year in 2020. India had consistently slid down from 133 ranks in the year 2016 to 142 ranks in the year 2020 and 2021. In the Asia-pacific region, Nepal is at 106 ranks, Sri Lanka at 127 ranks, Myanmar (before the coup) at 140 ranks, and Bangladesh at 152 ranks.
While India has not slipped further on the index but it continued to be counted among the countries classified as “bad” for journalism and is termed as one of the most dangerous countries for a journalist trying to do their jobs properly. As per the report, India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries where journalists are exposed to every kind of attack, including police violence against reporters, ambushes by political activists, and reprisal instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.
As per the report, Indians who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to radical right-wing Hindu nationalism, are trying to pursue all manifestation of ‘anti-national’ thoughts from the public debates. Those are also involved in the coordinated hate campaigns on social media networks against the journalist who dare to speak or write about the subject that irritated Hindutva followers. Such actions are terrifying and include a call for the journalist concerned to be murdered. The campaign turns more violent when the target is women.
In 2020, the government took the advantage of the covid 19 pandemic to set up its control of news coverage by prosecuting journalists providing information at variance with the official position, the report said. Again taking on the issue of Kashmir the report said that the situation is still worrying in Kashmir, where the reporter is often harassed by the police officer and paramilitaries.
The report also raises the issue of pro-government Journalism. The pro-govt media pumps out a form of propaganda, journalists who dare to criticize the govt. are given the tag of “anti-national” or “anti-state” or sometimes even “pro-terrorist”. “Ever since the general elections in the spring of 2019, won overwhelmingly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pressure has increased on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line,” the report said.
Speaking about the whole region of Asia-Pacific region, the report mentioned that instead of drafting the repressive laws in order to impose censorship, several of the countries in the region themselves impose the existing laws and legislation strictly that are already very draconian- the law of ‘sedition’, ’state secret’ and ‘national security.
The report has also highlighted throttling of freedom of expression on social media and specifically mentioned that in India the “arbitrary nature of Twitter’s algorithm also resulted in brutal censorship”. In recent times it was seen that the Kashmir Walla Magazine’s Twitter account was suspended by Twitter without giving any possibility of appeal.
The 2021 report shows that the main vaccine against disinformation is completely or partially blocked by 73% of 180 ranked countries. 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals the level of mistrust of journalists, with 59% of respondent in 28 countries saying that the journalist is misleading and provide a false message to society. The report also says only 12 countries are favorable for journalism.
However, the report also faced critics as people considered it biased against the western world. The funding of the organization is unknown which also creates suspicion. Also, the board of organization does not include anyone from South Asia.
If journalists were not free to report the facts, denounce abuses, and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of children-soldiers, defend women’s rights, or preserve our environment? the things can be better if people understand what to support what not to support. It is the decision of the public to hear and react to biased news. We can’t see people let themselves getting brainwashed.
The Second Angle has taken the initiative to normalize the ethics of journalism by providing unbiased and true news.