India Slips To 150th Position
The 20th World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) places India in 150th rank from 142th last year out of 180 countries. Moreover, India's position has been consistently falling from 133 in 2016 to 150 in 2022, highlighting the unsafe working conditions for journalists in the country. In 2021, when India had secured the 142nd position, experts categorized the country as a 'bad' place for journalists. The latest edition of the report mentioned, "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", ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right".
The 2022 edition of the index assesses the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories, highlighting the “disastrous effects of news and information chaos — the effects of a globalised and unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda,” said RSF, an international non-profit and non-governmental organisation that “defends the right of every human being to have access to free and reliable information”. In order to reflect press freedom’s complexity, five new indicators are now used to compile the Index: the political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and security.
Norway, Denmark and Sweden – continues to serve as a democratic model where freedom of expression flourishes. The world’s 10 worst countries for press freedom include Myanmar (176th), where the February 2021 coup d’état set press freedom back by 10 years, as well as China, Turkmenistan (177th), Iran (178th), Eritrea (179th) and North Korea (180th). The lack of press freedom in the Middle East continues to impact the conflict between Israel (86th), Palestine (170th) and the Arab states. Nepal is ranked at 76, Sri Lanka at 146, Bangladesh at 152 Pakistan at 157, US at 42, Russia at 155, Ukraine at 106 and France at 26.
Further, the report also highlighted that even though India was a British colony until 1947, the country's media was relatively progressive until the mid-2010s, when PM Modi's massive rapprochement between BJP and big media houses. The report from the Paris-based organization alleged that under the 'guise of COVID-19 pandemic', the ruling party and its supporters unleashed several lawsuits against media organizations which contradicted the official numbers of COVID cases and deaths. Currently, over 13 journalists are behind bars, and one has been killed since January 1. Experts also believed that internet shutdowns and the massive spread of misinformation could have contributed to India's declining performance in the index. It also faults India for its policy framework, which is protective in theory but resorts to using charges of defamation, sedition, contempt of court and endangering national security against journalists critical of the government, branding them as “anti-national.” The World Press Freedom Index also says the situation in Kashmir remains “worrisome” and reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries. A joint statement by the Press Club of India, Press Association and the Indian Women’s Press Corps, said attacks on media grew in “myriad ways”
Within democratic societies, divisions are growing as a result of the spread of opinion media following the “Fox News model” and the spread of disinformation circuits that are amplified by the way social media functions. At the international level, democracies are being weakened by the asymmetry between open societies and despotic regimes that control their media and online platforms while waging propaganda wars against democracies. Polarisation on these two levels is fuelling increased tension. India has been spotted under the similar role and suggested to ameliorate in the report. Media is considered the fourth pillar in a democracy. If corrective measures are not taken to improve the position of India, It will be futile to proclaim India as the largest democracy, for it doesn’t prove its stand in the report.