April 20, 2016

India (133) still in bottom third of World Press Freedom Index

India continues to languish in the bottom third of the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, published today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), because of the number of journalists killed and the impunity for crimes of violence against the media.

The situation is worsening in India, which is now ranked 133rd out of 180 countries, although its media are dynamic and much more capable of playing the role of democracy’s watchdog than the media in most other countries in last third of the Index.

Frequent lawsuits against journalists by local officials and draconian legislation on defamation and online publications impose major constraints on the media and encourage self-censorship. But violence has emerged as the main brake on media activity in recent years, especially for reporters in the field and investigative journalists.

Wherever they work, Indian journalists are exposed to growing violence. As well as frequent verbal and physical violence, attacks by armed groups are on the rise in several states and the local authorities have had little success in reining it in.

With almost one attack on a journalist every month and four journalists murdered in 2015 (at least two of them in connection with their work), the state of Uttar Pradesh has become one of India’s most dangerous regions, more so than traditional conflict zones such as Jammu and Kashmir, where the media are often the collateral victims of clashes.

In response to the frequent violence, RSF has repeatedly urged the federal government to launch a national action plan for the safety of journalists and for the prevention of dangers and threats to them. But RSF’s requests have so far gone unheeded.

In August 2015, the interior minister said there were no separate statistics for murders of journalists, which are lumped along with other crime figures. The government has made no provision for the creation of a special unit to combat impunity for crimes of violence against journalists, although there was an attack against a journalist every three days in 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries using the following criteria – pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.

Go to the RSF website to find out more about the 2016 World Press Freedom Index and the method used to compile it.