Prime Minister of India since 26 May 2014
Predator since taking office
India, 142nd/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: National-populism and disinformation
After becoming Gujarat’s chief minister in 2001, he used this western state as a laboratory for the news and information control methods he deployed after being elected as India’s prime minister in 2014. His leading weapon is to flood the mainstream media with speeches and information tending to legitimise his national-populist ideology. To this end, he has developed close ties with billionaire businessmen who own vast media empires.
This insidious strategy works in two ways. On the one hand, by visibly ingratiating himself with the owners of leading media outlets, their journalists know they risk dismissal if they criticise the government. On the other, prominent coverage of his extremely divisive and derogatory speeches, which often constitute disinformation, enables the media to achieve record audience levels. All that is left for Modi is to neutralise the media outlets and journalists that question his divisive methods.
For this, he has a judicial arsenal with provisions that pose a major threat to press freedom. For example, journalists risk the possibility of life imprisonment under the extremely vague charge of sedition. To round off this arsenal, Modi can count on an army of online trolls known as “yodha” (the Hindi word for “warriors”), who wage appalling hate campaigns on social media against the journalists they don’t like, campaigns that almost routinely include calls for the journalists to be killed.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: “Sickulars” and “presstitutes”
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Media against journalism
“Today the masks are off all journalists, The crisis of credibility is not of the media but the person who is working there. So, stop abusing us.” (12 May 2019).