India slips to 150 in press freedom index

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India slips to 150 in press freedom index

  • India's ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has fallen down to 150th position from last year's 142nd rank out of 180 countries, according to a report by a global media watchdog released on Tuesday, May 3.
  • The rankings of India's neighbours, except that of Nepal, have also slid down, with the index placing Pakistan at 157th position, Sri Lanka 146th, Bangladesh 162nd and Maynmar at 176th position.

About the World Press Freedom Index:

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  • Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders.
  • Based in Paris, RSF is an independent NGO with consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF).
    • OIF is a 54 french speaking nations collective.
  • The Index ranks countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. However it is not an indicator on the quality of journalism.
  • The parameters include 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.

Global Scenario:

  • Journalism is completely or partly blocked in over 70% of the 180 countries.
  • The Report has raised concern about the larger Asia-Pacific region as several nations in an attempt to curb freedom of press have in place draconian laws on ‘sedition,’ ‘state secrets’ and ‘national security’.
  • The trio of Nordic countries has grabbed a top position with Norway at first place followed by Denmark and Sweden.
  • On the other hand, the top 10 countries below the press freedom index include nations such as China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Myanmar.

India’s Performance Analysis:

  • India was ranked 142 in the year 2020 and 2021 as well, thus showing no improvement in the environment it provides to its journalists.
  • This year, India has plummeted down to 150th rank with Pakistan at 157th.
  • India is among the countries classified “bad” for journalism and is termed as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their jobs properly.
  • The report has blamed an environment of intimidation created by the nationalist government for any critical journalist often brandishing them as anti state or anti national.
  • The situation is worrying in Kashmir, where incidents of harassment of reporters by police and paramilitaries have surfaced time and again.

Reasons Behind India’s Poor Performance:

  • 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”.
  • It is alleged that “under the guise of combatting COVID-19, the government and its supporters waged a guerrilla war of lawsuits against media outlets whose coverage of the pandemic contradicted official statements”.

Freedom of press in India

  • It is legally protected by the Amendment to the constitution of India, while the sovereignty, national integrity, and moral principles are generally protected by the law of India to maintain a hybrid legal system for independent journalism.
  • In India, media bias or misleading information is restricted under the certain constitutional amendments as described by the country's constitution.
  • The media crime is covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is applicable to all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • Freedom of the press in India is subject to certain restrictions, such as defamation law, a lack of protection for whistleblowers, barriers to information access and constraints caused by public and government hostility to journalists.

Exam Track

Prelims Takeaway

  • Press Council of India (PCI)
  • International Initiative for Freedom of Press
  • World Press Freedom Index
  • Reporters without Borders
  • International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF).

Mains Track

Q. “Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forgo.” Discuss the significance of the above statement. Do you think Indian Media is free? Comment.