Editorial: World Press Freedom Day – India In Poor Position

Editorial: World Press Freedom Day – India In Poor Position

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, May 03, 2024, 10:11 PM IST
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Representative Image | Pixabay

Every May 3 is celebrated or commemorated as the World Press Freedom Day, in honour of the Windhoek Declaration 1991, as a reminder to the world of the significance of a free, independent, and pluralistic press that is an essential and a fundamental part of democracy and equitable development. This year’s theme, selected by the UN, is “A Press for the Planet” which focuses on journalism in the face of the grave environmental crisis that is upon the planet. In selecting this theme, the international organisation which also has a slew of reports and conferences on climate change, seeks to nudge the press all over the world of the importance of informing people about environmental problems, the urgent need to hold governments and corporations responsible for environmental actions, and influencing action on climate change that is now directly affecting millions of lives and livelihoods. This nudge was much needed.

However, this also shines a light on the conundrum that journalists face — most mainstream and influential publications are also owned by individuals or corporations with direct and indirect stakes in maintaining the status quo on fossil fuels and framing climate action in terms of corporate action and profits. The inherent contradiction cannot be missed. In India, this is even more acute. The RSF report unveiled showed India’s press ranked at 159 among 180 countries — a two-point improvement over the 2023 ranking. India’s ranking had fallen 11 places in 2022 when it was ranked 150th. India’s neighbours have ranked slightly better than it this year — Pakistan is at 152, Sri Lanka at 15, Nepal at 74.

The two-point upgrade, the RSF stated, was “misleading” as the change in position was due to worse falls by countries previously above it and emphasised that India’s “new position is still unworthy of a democracy”. The report is clear: “With violence against journalists, highly concentrated media ownership, and political alignment, press freedom is in crisis in the world’s largest democracy.” The country report details that press freedom in India deteriorated on various counts since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014 including the rise of the “Godi media” and adds that “the prime minister is very critical of journalists…Indian journalists who are very critical of the government are subjected to harassment campaigns by BJP-backed trolls.” Sobering words on World Press Freedom Day.

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