In the backdrop of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, India dropped two places to be ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the global press freedom index analysis released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders. Topped by Norway, the ‘World Press Freedom Index 2019′, reveals an increased sense of hostility towards journalists across the world, with violent attacks in India leading to at least six Indian journalists being killed in the line of their work last year.
“Violence against journalists – including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians – is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in India. At least six Indian journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018. A number of doubts surround a seventh case,” the index noted.
These murders highlighted the many dangers that Indian journalists face, especially those working for non-English-language media outlets in rural areas, the note added.
Attacks against journalists by supporters of ruling BJP increased in the run-up to general elections in the spring of 2019, the analysis alleged.
Referring to India, the report found an alarming rate of “coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva”.
“Finally, coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult. Foreign reporters are barred from Kashmir and the Internet is often disconnected there,” it added.
Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, is a non-profit organisation that works to document and combat attacks on journalists around the world.
If you consider South Asia in general, it features poorly on the press freedom index, with Pakistan dropping three places to 142, and Bangladesh dropping four places to 150.
Norway is ranked first in the 2019 Index for the third year running while Finland (up two places) has taken second place from the Netherlands (down one at 4th). In Africa, the rankings of Ethiopia (up 40 at 110th) and Gambia (up 30 at 92nd) have significantly improved from last year’s Index.
Vietnam (176th) and China (177th), placed at the bottom of the Index, have fallen one place. Turkmenistan (down two at 180th) now occupies the last place, replacing North Korea (up by one at 179th).