According to the World Press Freedom Index 2016, India stands low at 133th position in protecting its journalists.
As global leaders work together to address the problems on climate change, journalists across the world have a climate change of their own to deal with. Thousands of journalists every day face verbal threats, physical violence, prosecution, kidnapping, torture and even death.
India is ranked 133 on the World Press Freedom Index released by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April 2016. However, it jumped three positions ahead in a year as it ranked 136 last year.
The index is based on an evaluation of media freedom that measures pluralism, media independence, quality of legal framework and the safety of journalists in 180 countries.
“The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said about the world situation.
“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” he added.
Reporters Without Borders, also known as Reporters Sans Frontières, was founded in 1985 by journalists Robert Ménard, Rémy Loury, Jacques Molénat and Émilien Jubineau, in Montpellier, France. The World Press Freedom Index 2016 is led by Finland. The country retained its top spot for the sixth consecutive year this time as well, followed by Netherlands and Norway.
According to the report, India continues to be low in the index because some journalists and bloggers are attacked and anathematised by various religious groups that are quick to take offense. Also, it is hard for some journalists to cover regions such as Kashmir that are regarded as sensitive by the government.
There is no specific mechanism for protecting journalists in India. Wherever they work, Indian journalists are exposed to growing violence. Frequent verbal and physical violence and attacks by armed groups are on the rise in several states and the local authorities have had little success in reining it.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka rank lower
However, India can still take pride in its position when compared to neighbouring countries like Pakistan that ranked at 147 or Sri Lanka at 141. Afghanistan ranked at 120, Bangladesh at 144, Nepal at 105, Bhutan at 94 and China ranked at 176.
The Editors Guild of India in March 2016 reported that media in Chhattisgarh, central India, was working under tremendous pressure. Headquartered in New York, the Human Rights Watch asked the authorities in Chhattisgarh to drop baseless prosecutions of journalists and end abuses by the security forces against journalists, activists, and human rights defenders in Maoist-affected areas.
“The authorities should address suffering of ordinary people and stop threatening and prosecuting journalists for bringing attention to rights abuses,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch, South Asia director.
“Silencing journalists and rights activists makes it easier for both the Maoists and government security forces to commit abuses with impunity,” she added.