The world press freedom index also reveals a two-fold increase in polarisation amplified by information chaos – that is, media polarisation fuelling divisions within countries, as well as polarisation between countries at the international level.
India has slipped 8 places on the World Press Freedom Index 2022. With a global score of 41, India has gone down to the 150th position from 142 last year.
The world press freedom index released by Reporters Without Borders(RSF) on May 3, which is observed as World Press Freedom Day, assesses the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories.
Among India’s prominent neighbours, both Pakistan and China are way below the index. Pakistan with a global score of 37.99 is in 157th position, while China with a score of 25.17 is in 175th spot.
Bhutan with a score of 76.46 is at the 33rd position, the best in the region.
Norway with a global score of 92.65 is at the top of the list, followed by Denmark and Sweden.
The worst performer is North Korea with a global score of 13.92. The other countries in the bottom 5 are Eritrea, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Myanmar.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and nine other human rights organizations have asked Indian authorities to stop targeting journalists and online critics for their work. They also ask authorities to stop prosecuting journalists and critics under counterterrorism and sedition laws.
A report titled: “India: Media freedom under threat” on the RSF website urges Indian authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression and release any journalists detained on trumped-up or politically motivated charges for their critical reporting and also stop targeting journalists and muzzling independent media.
The nine human rights organizations are the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, International Federation of Journalists, CIVICUS, Access Now, International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
The authorities’ targeting of journalists, coupled with a broader crackdown on dissent, has emboldened Hindu nationalists to threaten, harass, and abuse journalists critical of the Indian government, both online and offline, with impunity, the groups have said.
The report says authorities have arrested journalists on spurious terrorism and sedition charges, and have routinely targeted critics and independent news organizations, including raiding their workplaces.
“Journalists and online critics also risk prosecution under the Information Technology Act and IT Rules of 2021 for content critical of the authorities,” it adds.
The report further states that frequent internet shutdowns hamper the ability of journalists to do their work, including accessing and disseminating information online.
Reacting to the RSF 2022 World Press Freedom Index, three Indian journalists’ bodies said in a joint statement, “While the job insecurities have grown so have the attacks on press freedoms seen an exponential rise. India does not fare too well in this regard, ranking 150 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by RSF.
“Journalists have been incarcerated under draconian laws for flimsy reasons and on some occasions faced threat to their lives as well from self-styled custodians of law in the social media space,” the Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India and Press Association added.
Noting that freedom of the press is integral to the functioning of a vibrant democracy, they said the media has to come together “to reclaim its role towards realisation of this objective”.
“These restrictions on media freedom come amid an escalating crackdown on civil society by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which is using sedition, counterterrorism, and national security laws to target and prosecute human rights activists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters. Journalists from minority groups and those in Jammu and Kashmir are particularly at risk,” the groups allege.
Source: The Times of India