The report notes 'constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials'.
India has slipped two points on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Orders, to a score of 142. This score places India below countries like Myanmar (139), South Sudan (138) and Palestine (137), and a little above Pakistan (145). The report notes that though there have been no murders of journalists in India in 2019, there have been “constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials”.
It notes that India’s score has been heavily affected by the situation in Kashmir after the central government shut down fixed line and mobile Internet connections completely for several months, making it virtually impossible for journalists to cover what was happening in what has become a vast open prison.
Newslaundry had reported how tough the operation of news gathering had become in the Valley soon after the Internet shutdown. Subsequently, a series of reports on Newslaundry highlighted how the Indian state has used fear and ad money to hollow out Kashmir’s press, how journalists were detained, questioned and beaten up by the police and how the government’s ‘media centre’ had cut journalists and their journalism down to size. The report comes at a time when a Kashmiri photojournalist, Masrat Zahra, has been booked for ‘anti-national" Facebook posts. Another journalist from The Hindu, Peerzada Ashiq, also faces an FIR for a story on an encounter in Shopian.
Globally, the report notes that the coming decade would decisive for the future of journalism. It notes that the Covid-19 pandemic amplifies the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information:
"There is a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a country’s ranking in the Index. Both China (177th) and Iran (down 3 at 173rd) censored their major coronavirus outbreaks extensively. In Iraq (down 6 at 162nd), the authorities stripped Reuters of its licence for three months after it published a story questioning official coronavirus figures. Even in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary (down 2 at 89th), had a 'coronavirus' law passed with penalties of up to five years in prison for false information, a completely disproportionate and coercive measure."
Norway topped the Index for the fourth year in a row in 2020, while Finland is again the runner-up.
You can read the Reporters Without Borders' methodology here.
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