Meanwhile, India slips further on press freedom ranking
GN Bureau | May 3, 2017
As the world marks the Press Freedom Day, prime minister Narendra Modi has sent out a message in support of vibrant press, even as a fresh ranking shows India has slipped further when it comes to ensuring freedom for the news media.
“World Press Freedom Day is a day to reiterate our unwavering support towards a free and vibrant press, which is vital in a democracy,” Modi said, according to an official release.
However, in the two-sentence message, the PM gave equal weightage to social media – which often goes counter to the traditional news media and has invited criticism for giving adding to the phenomenon of fake news.
“In today's day and age, social media has emerged as an active medium of engagement and has added more vigour to press freedom,” the PM said.
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Meanwhile, the ‘press freedom barometer’ for 2017, presented by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), sees India’s rank going down from 133 (2016) to 136.
Moreover, the RSF says in a note titled ‘Threat from Modi’s nationalism’ that “With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media.”
More and more journalists have become the targets of online smear campaigns by radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals, notes the RSF.
“Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which ‘sedition’ is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship.”
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