It’s one of the most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job right: RSF
The 2021 World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a non-governmental organization in France, has once again placed India at 142nd position out of 180 countries. This is despite the fact that, for a year, under the instructions of the Cabinet Secretary, an Index Monitoring Cell has worked to improve world rankings, including a meeting between Ambassador to France with RSF officials to lobby for a change of position in the index drawn up by them.
In 2016, India’s rank was 133 which has climbed steadily down to 142 in 2020. The RSF report says India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly. They are vulnerable to all forms of attack, including police violence against reporters, ambassadors from political activists, and revenge by corrupt criminal groups or local officials.
Fearing such a damaging assessment, in February last year, on the instructions of Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the Index Monitoring Cell was set up in 18 Ministries to find ways to improve the position on 32 international indices. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was delegated to look at the freedom of the press index.
In accordance with this Index Monitoring Cell report, accessed by The Hindu, on April 26 last year, PIB’s Additional Director General first wrote to RSF Chairman Pierre Haski requesting criteria for the survey on which they are compiling the index, in order to gain a better understanding of the site. This was followed by a meeting between Ambassador to France Javed Ashraf with RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire and Daniel Bastard, desk of the Head of Asia Pacific.
The minutes of this September meeting are part of the Gell report. Mr Ashraf said the openness of the government to be criticized and questioned on topics such as economy, international affairs and defense bargains like Rafale were indicators of freedom of the press.
Questions on Internet ban in J&K
However, RSF representatives questioned the extended Internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir from August 5, 2019 that went on for almost a year. The Ambassador said the shutdown was in the region’s security. “Members of the press could access the Internet through the government-set up Internet kiosks and there were active reports in the Indian and international media on the situation in Kashmir, which could only have been possible with unrestricted access to the Internet and freedom to press, ”the records say.
The minutes also state that on the issue of violence raised by the RSF, Mr Ashraf said “many incidents reported as attacks on journalists are often the result of the law and order situation in some areas of India . This is often misrepresented as targeted attacks on journalists by the State in the western media ”.