India’s press freedom record poor, deteriorating: Report

New Delhi, , May 02 (KMS): Press freedom in India has deteriorated in 2018 and three journalists have been killed in the first four months, media watchdog The Hoot said, stating that “journalists continue to be vulnerable”.

The number of killings documented by The Hoot report for the first four months was the same as in the whole of 2017. “They were killed in connection with their reporting, judging by what initial investigations show,” it said.

India ranks 138th among 180 countries on this year’s World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders. India’s rank was 136th in 2017 and 133rd in 2016. The number of documented attacks on journalists and media workers across the country during the period was 13. It includes three in West Bengal. In 2017, documented attacks stood at 46.

Apart from these, there were defamation cases that came to trial. A sedition case was filed against a journalist. There was also a clear push by the State, Centre and the judiciary – through regulatory policy as well as judicial orders – to curb free speech, The Hoot said. “There were also around 50 instances of censorship and more than 20 instances of suspension of Internet services as well as the taking down of online content,” it added. All three journalists killed in the January to April period were mowed down by vehicles.

On March 26, two Dainik Bhaskar journalists – Navin Nishchal and Vijay Singh – were killed when their bike was hit by a Sport-utility vehicle (SUV) at Bhojpur in Bihar. A day later, television reporter Sandeep Sharma was mowed down by a truck in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh. Sharma, who had done a sting operation on a sand mining mafia in Bhind, had told police that he had received threats to his life, it said.

The Hoot’s investigation revealed that politicians, businessmen, members of Hindu rightwing groups, police and paramilitary forces, government agencies like the film certification board, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, state governments, lawyers and even media groups had acted to undermine freedom of expression.

India’s record on press freedom has remained poor and has been deteriorating over the last couple of years.

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