Indian journalists facing ‘physical threats, undue political influence’: Reuters Digital News report 2023

The report highlighted that even foreign media were affected.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Indian media companies are “facing tough times” with a declining interest in news, lower trust, and slump in revenues amid “increasingly threatened” press freedoms, said the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said in its annual Digital News Report released on Wednesday.

The section on India noted that the media in India is faced with “challenges regarding journalists’ security” and “undue political influence”. It said independent journalists and those critical of governments have been enduring physical threats, online harassment and legal charges. “Even foreign media were affected”, referring to the raids at the BCC offices in Delhi and Mumbai in February, following the release of its documentary on prime minister Narendra Modi.  

There’s also a steep decline in both the consumption and sharing of news across different sources. Among the legacy brands, it said, NDTV 24x7, BBC News, Republic TV and Times of India were the top news sources both online and offline. Curiously, Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar is also among the top 10 legacy brands accessed by English news readers. 

While digital brands may not be as popular as legacy media brands, the report said news websites are attracting “dedicated and engaged audiences”. Importantly, the report said the Wire “faced a severe credibility crisis” over its Meta debacle, losing “some audience trust” in the report’s annual brand trust ratings.

There was a sharp decrease in access to online news – 12 percentage points lower than last year, particularly through social media. TV news consumption also fell by 10 percentage points, according to the report, particularly among the younger and urban audience. The report attributed the decline, in part, to the fading impact of the pandemic.

It also flagged the central government’s quest to modify the IT Rules, 2021: “This has been widely criticised for overreach and endangering freedom of speech – as well as for contradicting earlier procedures laid down by the Supreme Court for blocking online content.” Earlier, Newslaundry had reported on the news organisations’ fears about the amendments being used to “muzzle the media”.

The report underlined that NDTV, “considered an independent voice in the polarised television news space in India”, was taken over by Adani Group last year, becoming one of the many media outlets owned or controlled by big businesses. Read here about how the channel is faring without its co-founders Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy.   

On a happier note, the report mentioned the top court’s suspension of the sedition law and the win of press freedom in the TV channel Media One case – in which the Supreme Court observed that denial for clearance to operate will create a “chilling effect” on press freedom. Read about how the central government used the “plea of national security to deny the rights of citizens”.

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