World Press Freedom Index: India’s ranking drops to 161 out of 180 countries

Various journalist organisations saluted all journalists and other employees in the media sector on the 30th World Press Freedom Day.

 As proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993, World Press Freedom Day on May 3 is supposed to act as a “reminder to governments” of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. For journalists, the Day is to reflect on issues of “press freedom and professional ethics”. But the situation, after 30 years, is not at all rosy. 

 The World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that in 2023 India’s ranking has dropped sharply to 161 out of 180 countries. In 2022 its rank was 150. RSF had recently warned about a two-fold increase in polarization. It said media polarisation is fuelling divisions within countries, as well as between countries at the international level. The collapse of many economies after the pandemic has further fuelled polarisation in many countries. The big corporate media has played an active role in creating divisions among people. 

 India is no different. Many TV channels are now owned by corporates aligned with political parties. News about corporate corruption, protests by farmers and workers, people’s issues and issues raised are often ignored or covered up. Many independent-thinking journalists who do not kowtow to those in power have either lost jobs or got sidelined in the process. 

Attacks against independent media and independent journalists have increased sharply in recent years. These range from intimidation to physical and ‘legal’ attacks that misuse the law. Trolling, particularly of women journalists, is merciless.  Many journalists are being harassed by the arbitrary filing of cases and even arrests for doing their job. 

On this World Press Freedom Day, we ask the government to protect the media from attacks. We urge Parliament and the Judiciary to strike down sedition and defamation laws that are repeatedly used against journalists and other citizens. We ask that draconian laws like UAPA and PMLA be revised urgently. Parliament must review the new rules for digital media that will strike the death knell for independent media.  

Journalist organisations urged the Centre and the States to stop implementing the Labour Codes, which have subsumed the Working Journalists Act. This Act has played a pivotal role in protecting the freedom of the press. They also urged the Centre to immediately announce a new tripartite Wage Board for the entire industry. They also demanded a special law to protect media persons and the entire media. 

Journalist organisations and groups called upon their community to collectively defend the freedom of the press and dignity of labour for journalists.

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