Media associations in the country have voiced concern over India slipping 11 places to 161st rank in the World Press Freedom Index, 2023, published on Wednesday.
Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which publishes a yearly report on press freedom in countries across the world, had last year ranked India at 150 in a survey of 180 countries. The report stated that the ‘world’s largest democracy’ is facing a media crisis.
“The situation has gone from ‘problematic’ to ‘very bad’ in three other countries: Tajikistan (down 1 at 153rd), India (down 11 at 161st) and Turkey (down 16 at 165th),” the RSF report said.
“The other phenomenon that dangerously restricts the free flow of information is the acquisition of media outlets by oligarchs who maintain close ties with political leaders,” the report, published on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, added.
The Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Club of India, and the Press Association released a joint statement voicing their concern over the country’s dip in the index.
“The indices of press freedom have worsened in several countries, including India, according to the latest RSF report,” the joint statement said.
“For developing democracies in the Global South where deep pockets of inequities exist, the media’s role cannot be understated. Likewise the constraints on press freedom due to hostile working conditions like contractorization have to also be challenged. Insecure working conditions can never contribute to a free press,” it added.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor too commented on the embarrassing development. “Time for all of us to hang our heads in shame: India slips in World Press Freedom Index, ranks 161 out of 180 countries,” he wrote on Twitter. PTI
The World Press Freedom Index revealed that press freedom in 31 countries is in a “very serious situation”. Two years ago, the number was 21 countries. Increased aggressiveness from autocratic governments – and some that are considered democratic – coupled with “massive disinformation or propaganda campaigns” has caused the situation to go from bad to worse, according to the list, Guardian reported.
According to the report, press freedom has been on shaky ground in India since 2014, when the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came into power; a government, which is an embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right.
Pakistan’s ranking, on the other hand, has improved, with it moving from 157 in 2022 to 150 in 2023.
“There is more red on the RSF map this year than ever before, as authoritarian leaders become increasingly bold in their attempts to silence the press,” the RSF secretary general, Christophe Deloire, told the Guardian. Wednesday, May 3, marked the 30th anniversary of the World Press Freedom Day.
The United Nations chief warned on the eve of World Press Freedom Day that the media is under attack in every corner of the world and urged all nations to stop the targeting of truth and those who report it.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres termed the 50 per cent increase in the killing of media workers in 2022 as “unbelievable,” stressing that freedom of the press “is the foundation of democracy and justice” and it is under threat.