Recently another question arises in front of us that the freedom of expression is under threat in the world’s largest democracy. Press is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy, but if the expression of the press is handcuffed, then the freedom of expression will be read-only on paper, recently many questions are being raised on the freedom of expression in India.
On 3rd May which is observed as World Press Freedom Day, on the same day, the Reporters Without Borders published the 20th edition of the World Press Freedom Index. The day was declared by United Nations General Assembly in 1993, the objective is the development of a free, independent, and pluralistic press. The theme of 2022 is journalism under digital siege.
Since 2002, the report of the World Press Freedom Index has been published by Reporters Without Borders or Reporter Sans Frontieres, Paris based independent NGO. The countries and regions rank on the index according to the freedom of expression available to a journalist. Although, it does not scale on the quality of journalism. The score of the country is based on five criteria:- political context, economic context, legal framework, sociocultural context, and safety.
Are the independent voices of the press in India silent now?
With the surge in inflation and unemployment in India, another concern arose for the country’s citizens, recently a report published by the Reporters Without Borders the 20th edition of the World Press Freedom Index evaluated the state of expression of journalism in 180 countries, as per the data represented that position of India’s freedom of expression showed downward trend since 2016 and from then onwards its been alleviating over the years.
The press is considered the fourth pillar of democracy but what if the expression of freedom is murdered under the democracy itself, every year three or four journalists are threatened or even killed in the secular or democratic countries like India, as per the index India is proclaimed as “the most dangerous country of the world for media”.
Meanwhile, India has been ranked 150th out of 180 countries which was a downfall of 8th position from the earlier year. India is being reported a major downfall since 2016 in which it stood at 133rd and last year at 142nd, notwithstanding there is no improvement in the position in a couple of years.
Whereas, Norway secure the position at 1st followed by Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland. Meanwhile, India’s neighboring countries like Pakistan stood at 157th, Sri Lanka at 146th, Bangladesh at 162nd, and Myanmar stood at 176th.
According to the report made by Reporters Without Borders, the increasing cases of violence against journalists, politically influenced media, and unauthorized control over the media suggest that the world’s largest democratic country has failed to secure free expression, as well as it has been said that the politics of irreligious and one religion has been promoted by the Modi government since 2014.
It has been confirmed by the report that there are more than one lakh newspapers in India, out of which 36,000 are weekly and over 380 news channels, on the flip side in the country external ownership of media is increasing due to which the independent identity of the media is disappearing.
It has been disclosed in the report in which it has been told by the journalists are subjected to violence, in which they are also tortured by the police, apart from this, they are also threatened and killed by political activists and criminal groups.
It has been confirmed by the journalists that the Hindu religion is being promoted by the activists of the Hindutava religion, as well as they attack and harass the expression against their views, apart from an inflammatory speech on social media and hatred or death threats are made on the calls.
Apart from this, women journalists are abused even though their personal information is publicized on social media to defame their dignity, said in the report. According to the proclamation of the report, the Press Club of India, the Indian Women Press Corps, and the Press Association articulated that the violence against free speech is rising across the world and this emerge a crisis over the freedom of expression in the democratic world.
At the same time, both their pen and voice have been handcuffed by political activists and unjust laws on the expression of journalists.
Status of freedom of expression in India
The expression of freedom is embellished in article 19 of the Indian constitution which states the right to freedom is protected by the judiciary. However, the voice of the press is being throttled, abused, or even threatened both online and offline by the Indian government.
However, rising autocracy over media, last year the flashing news of Pegasus Virus which is a zero-click method to attack the privacy of any person, meanwhile, in India almost 40 journalists’ data were sent to surveillance without any information by the government. The authorities are being included in charging false cases on journalist even there are some incidents where journalists are proclaimed as terrorist and cases are filed under the sedition law.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma