On the World Press Freedom Index, India ranks in the 138th spot (just one place higher than Pakistan). India slipped two positions down in the past one year. In this list of 180 countries, Columbia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ukraine, Israel, Haiti, Chile and Namibia, they all rank higher than our country.
(Image source: India Today)
After May 2014, Indian media scene has negligently taken a very ***** turn. Since Modi government came to power, the country’s press freedom has always been in critical questions. In a 2017 report by India Spend, it’s mentioned that there have been 142 attacks on journalists in the past two years. (Notably, in many rural parts of the country, largely in UP, Bihar, Haryana and Karnataka, many of such attacks on media person – at least of local organizations – usually go unreported.)
These are some of the numbers and facts that really shows the black image of press freedom in India. Now coming to observations and opinions, even then, it’s not difficult for an individual with a brain to spot just the kind of system media persons are working in.
Majority of the mainstream media, electronic and print, are already a sell out to the government. Evidently and guiltlessly to the oath and principles of journalism, they are working for the ruling party—from Republic TV, Times Now and Zee News to Dainik Bhaskar, Times of India and Pioneer. And not to mention the countless army of online news websites who are pro-establishment. Farmers are dying, youths are unemployed, the instances of rape are increasing—but they will never question the government in power. In fact, many of top journalists have openly shown their allegiance with PM Narendra Modi and Amin Shah.
In rough estimation, more than 90 percent of what you consume through media is pro-BJP. Period. While some of them work for BJP due to their right-wing ideologue, others simply do this out of fear. This loss of independency very clearly shows that press freedom in India is at its worse. And with BJP is all lined to come back in power in 2019, the state of affair for the media is only going to get worse.
Now, there are handful people in the media scene who are daring to raise their voices for facts, figures and honesty. But over the course of 4 years, they have struggled a lot. From being boycotted by BJP to being hurled abuses and death threats—they are continuously and regularly attacked by the pro-BJP trolls, online and even in person. Ravish Kumar, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra—these are the few names who have always been at the receiving end of abuses.
All in all, if observed properly and without any political leaning, there’s not an iota of freedom left in Indian media. And those who try to bank on this “privilege”, they get shunned by the pro-BJP troll army.
As one of the fastest emerging economies and possible global leader, it’s a shame that India ranks so low in the press freedom index. But to hooligan and jingoist media, that won’t be a problem for as long as we stay ahead of Pakistan—even with just one spot.
The whole scene reminds me of the opening lines of movie Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows PT1 – “These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today…” If only we can get more of independent, courageous and honest journalists who can complete this dialogue with…
“These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today. But I say this to our citizenry: We, ever your servants, will continue to defend your liberty and repel the forces that seek to take it from you! Your
Ministry (media) remains, strong.”
Perhaps, on the World Press Freedom Day that we celebrate on May 3rd every year that we can contemplate over where Indian media has come and where it is going. But then again, the kind of trouble the entire nation is in right now, having just one day for contemplation isn’t sufficient. Even 1000 days can feel limited.