The union home ministry said that it does not agree with the views and rankings of the World Press Freedom Index published by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, describing the latter as a “foreign NGO”. The group publishes the rankings every year; India ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in 2021.
The ministry made this statement while in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, after Congress MP Manish Tewari asked the ministry four questions.
In the context of the “takeover” of the Kashmir Press Club last month, Tewari asked whether journalists in Kashmir and India “are frequently penalised by state agencies under Indian Penal Code, UAPA and other penal laws”. He also asked whether this was the reason why “India holds a poor 142nd position on the World Press Freedom Index”.
In response, minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai said the government was “committed to ensure the right to freedom of speech and expression” and that the Press Council of India had been set up to preserve the freedom of the press.
On the World Press Freedom Index rankings, Rai said: “The World Press Freedom Index is published by a foreign non-government organisation, Reporters Without Borders. The government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings and does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organisation for various reasons including very low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, adoption of a methodology which is questionable and non-transparent, lack of clear definition of press freedom etc.”
Tewari also asked why Kashmir police and CRPF personnel had entered the Kashmir Press Club on January 15 and seemingly aided the “takeover” without proper warrant or documentation.
Rai replied, “Presently, there is no registered body by the name of ‘Kashmir Press Club’ or its elected managing body since Kashmir Press Club, as a registered body, has ceased to exist and has failed to register itself under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.”
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