Media outlets pressured or harassed in India: US report

Washington, Apr 22 (KMS): The Trump administration has said that in India media outlets critical of the government were pressured or harassed in 2017. The US State Department in its annual Human Rights Report for the year 2017 said, “The Constitution (of India) provides for freedom of speech and expression, but it does not explicitly mention freedom of the press. The government (of India) generally respected these rights, although there were instances in which the government allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government.”

The Congress mandated annual report of the Department of State chronicles situation of human rights in almost all countries of the world. In its report, the State Department said individuals routinely criticised the government publicly and privately. According to Human Rights Watch, however, sedition and criminal defamation laws were sometimes used to prosecute citizens who criticised government officials or opposed state policies, it said.

According to media watchdog The Hoot’s India Freedom Report detailing cases between January 2016 and April 2017, “There was an overall sense of shrinking liberty not experienced in recent years.”

The report detailed 54 attacks on journalists, at least three cases of television news channels being banned, 45 internet shutdowns, and 45 sedition cases against individuals and groups. The report mentioned the CBI raid on NDTV, exit of Bobby Ghosh as the editor of The Hindustan Times and arrest of cartoonist G Bala. The State Department said in 2017, some journalists and media persons experienced violence and harassment in response to their reporting.

During the year a subcommittee of the Press Council of India issued a report to the government on the protection and preservation of the freedom of the press and integrity of journalists; the report highlighted that at least 80 journalists had been killed since 1990 and only one conviction had been made. “Online and mobile harassment, particularly of female journalists, was prevalent, with some female activists and journalists reporting that they receive thousands of abusive tweets from ‘trolls’ every week,” it said. The report noted the killing of senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh and attack on television journalist Shantau Bhowmik.

According to the State Department, the most significant human rights issues included police and security force abuses, such as extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and lengthy pretrial detention.

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