India will celebrate its National Press Day tomorrow. It is celebrated every year on November 16 to commemorate the establishment of the Press Council of India which was formed in 1966.
National Press Day is the symbol of a free, as well as the responsible press in India as Press Council Of India, acts as a moral watchdog for media.
India is a free country and freedom of speech and expression is enshrined in the Constitution. However, what goes on paper, does not always happen on the ground. In just over five years, India's place in the Reporters Without Borders' press freedom index has from 136th in 2015 to 142nd in 2020.
Recently, the International Press Institute and Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists urged PM Modi to drop all charges against journalists, including those under the sedition laws, that have been imposed on them for their work.
Thus, while we prepare to boast over our commitment to a free press in India, we have listed down names of journalists who were arrested and killed in 2020.
Pawan Chaudhary, Bihar
On 6 April 2020, Pawan Choudhary (30 years), a web journalist, was arrested in Munger in Bihar on the charges of spreading misinformation about the death of COVID-19 patient.
Damodharan, Tamil Nadu
On the night of 7 April 2020, a TV journalist named Damodharan who shot visuals of a pharmacy staff handing out medicines to patients without a doctor’s consultation at the Minjur Primary Health Centre in Minjur in Tamil Nadu was branded a ‘fake journalist’ and arrested by the police.
Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai, Jammu & Kashmir
On 11 April 2020, Mushtaq Ahmad Ganai (34 years), a prominent journalist working for the Srinagar-based English daily, Kashmir Observer, was arrested and detained for two days at Sumbal police station in Bandipore district of Jammu and Kashmir when he went there in his Alto car to report the violation of the lockdown.
Rahul Kulkarni, Maharashtra
On 15 April 2020, the Mumbai Police arrested ABP News correspondent Rahul Kulkarni over his claim that the Railways would restart operations which the police alleged may have prompted the gathering of hundreds of migrants outside the Bandra station in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Maharashtra on 14 April.
Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, Jerald Aruldas and M Balaji, Tamil Nadu
On 23 April 2020, Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, founder of a portal called SimpliCity was arrested in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu for filing news reports related to COVID-19. The news portal published two stories: one related to doctors facing a shortage of food and personal protective equipment (PPE) kit at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital; and the other report on how to ration items were being diverted by employees of PDS shops.
Zubair Ahmed, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
On 27 April 2020, Zubair Ahmed, a freelance journalist, was arrested by the police in Andaman & Nicobar for posting a tweet questioning why families were placed under home quarantine for merely speaking over the phone with Coronavirus patients.
Abhilash Padachery, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
On 1 May 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detained three youths, including a journalist, on the charges of having links with the Maoists in Kerala. Among the three youths included Kozhikode native Abhilash Padachery, an online journalist.
Dhaval Patel, Gujarat
On the night of 11 May 2020, the Gujarat Police arrested Dhaval Patel, editor of an online Gujarati news portal, Face of Nation, and booked him for sedition for allegedly publishing a speculative report on a possible change in leadership due to criticism over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Gujarat.
Bhupendra Pratap Singh, Abhishek Singh, Hemant Chowrasia and Ayush Kumar Singh, West Bengal
The Supreme Court had to restrain the state government of West Bengal and Maharashtra from arresting journalists. On 22 May 2020, the Supreme Court restrained the West Bengal Police from arresting five TV journalists who were booked in as many as five cases after they conducted a sting operation to show state ministers and TMC MLAs allegedly taking bribes.
In addition to these arrests, several journalists were slammed with FIRs under various IPC sections. Few also got assaulted, while few others were slammed with show-cause notices.
As per the violations of press freedom barometer by RSF, at least two journalists were killed in India in 2020. On November 8, a Tamil Nadu Journalist named Isravel Moses (Tamizhan TV) was attacked with sickles for reporting on illegal land and ganja sale. He died in the attack.
On June 19, 2020, Journalist Shubham Mani Tripathi was killed in Uttar Pradesh as two assailants shot him for reporting on illegal sand mining.