India falls 11 places to 161 in World Press Freedom Index 2023

Fake content, AI, arbitrary payment-based systems threaten global media: RSF


May 3, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

India falls 11 places to 161 in World Press Freedom Index 2023

The situation is “very bad” in 31 countries, “bad” in 42, “problematic” in 55, and “good” or “fairly good” in 52 countries

India has continued its fall in the global ranking of countries with a free press as India slips 11 places to land at 161st in 180 nations around the world in the 21st edition of the World Press Freedom Index 2023, compiled by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF). The index also sheds light on major and often radical changes linked to political, social and technological upheavals.

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Saying that press freedom in India had suffered further under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Paris-based journalists’ organisation, Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) says that India has fallen from 150 to 161 in the World Press Freedom Index 2023 that was released earlier today, to mark the World Press Freedom Day.

“In India, media takeovers by oligarchs close to Prime Minister Modi have jeopardised pluralism,’’ says RSF in a press statement. India has continued to slip almost every year since the ranking was launched in 2002, when India ranked 80th. India’s rank fell to 122 in 2010 and 131 in 2012 and falling to 150 in 2022.

The statement by RSF adds that the index, which evaluates the environment for journalism in 180 countries and territories and is published on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the situation is “very bad” in 31 countries, “bad” in 42, “problematic” in 55, and “good” or “fairly good” in 52 countries. In other words, the environment for journalism is “bad” in seven out of 10 countries, and satisfactory in only three out of 10, says RSF.

Norway retained its top ranking for seventh year running. But, says RSF, unusually a non-Nordic country is ranked second, namely Ireland that has gained 4 spots to 2nd and ahead of Denmark which has slipped one place to 3rd. The Netherlands has regained its 6th spot, jumping 22 places that it had fallen in 2021 when crime reporter Peter R de Vries was murdered.

RSF says that there are changes at the bottom of the Index, too. The last three places are occupied solely by Asian countries, with Vietnam at 178, China at 179 and North Korea at 180.

“The World Press Freedom Index shows enormous volatility in situations, with major rises and falls and unprecedented changes, such as Brazil’s 18-place rise and Senegal’s 31-place fall. This instability is the result of increased aggressiveness on the part of the authorities in many countries and growing animosity towards journalists on social media and in the physical world. The volatility is also the consequence of growth in the fake content industry, which produces and distributes disinformation and provides the tools for manufacturing it,” says Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General.

Effects of the fake content industry

RSF is also concerned about the impact of fake news and artificial intelligence on media. RSF says that the 2023 Index spotlights the rapid effects that the digital ecosystem’s fake content industry has had on press freedom. In 118 countries, most of the index questionnaire’s respondents reported that political actors in their countries were often or systematically involved in massive disinformation or propaganda campaigns. The difference is being blurred between true and false, real and artificial, facts and artifices, jeopardising the right to information. The unprecedented ability to tamper with content is being used to undermine those who embody quality journalism and weaken journalism itself.

RSF says that the remarkable development of artificial intelligence is wreaking further havoc on the media world, which had already been undermined by Web 2.0. “Meanwhile, Twitter owner Elon Musk is pushing an arbitrary, payment-based approach to information to the extreme, showing that platforms are quicksand for journalism,” it adds.

The disinformation industry disseminates manipulative content on a huge scale, as shown by an investigation by the Forbidden Stories consortium, a project co-founded by RSF. And now AI is digesting content and regurgitating it in the form of syntheses that flout the principles of rigour and reliability.

The fifth version of Midjourney, an AI programme that generates very high-definition images in response to natural language requests, has been feeding social media with increasingly plausible and undetectable fake “photos”, including quite realistic-looking ones of Donald Trump being stopped by police officers and a comatose Julian Assange in a straitjacket, which went viral, says RSF.



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