India has a number of “significant human rights issues” such as “restrictions on free expression and media, including violence” and “ threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists”, according to a recent report by the US state department.
Titled “” and released on Tuesday, the India chapter of the report also cited “terrorists and extremists perpetrating killings, violence, and intimidation” against journalists critical of the government.
“There were reports from journalists and NGOs that government officials at both the local and national levels were involved in intimidating critical media outlets through physical harassment and attacks, pressuring owners, targeting sponsors, encouraging frivolous lawsuits, and in some areas blocking communication services, such as mobile telephones and the internet, and constraining freedom of movement,” the report said.
The report has been prepared annually over the last 50 years. The 2021 iteration covers 198 countries and territories. Among other human rights issues, the report listed the following:
The report noted that India had been downgraded from “free” to “partly free” in the , and said the government had blocked the Twitter accounts of several journalists who had covered the farmers’ protest last year. The by Reporters Without Borders was also cited as describing India as “very dangerous” for journalists.
Harassment and violence towards female journalists was “particularly acute” in India, the report said, with rising instances of “internet trolling” and “online and mobile harassment”.
On challenges faced by journalists from Jammu and Kashmir, the report said they “continued to face barriers to free reporting through communications and movement restrictions”. It said at least six journalists from the region were “assaulted, detained, or questioned by police”, singling out the cases of journalists Shafat Farooq, Saqib Majeed and Aakash Hassan, who were “beaten” and “assaulted” by the police.
The report also mentioned against the Wire and journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammad Zubair, the against Scroll executive editor Supriya Sharma, and the income tax raids on the .
Commenting on the independent media, the report said, “Independent media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views.”