India has slipped two more places in the World Press Freedom Index to a dismal 140th in the list of 180 countries. The annual report, released by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Thursday, cast grave concerns over the safety of journalists, who spoke against Hindutva politics in India.
Its analysis read, “Threats, insults and attacks are now part of the “occupational hazards” for journalists in many countries. In India (down two at 140th), where critics of Hindu nationalism are branded as “anti-Indian” in online harassment campaigns, six journalists were murdered in 2018.”
The annual report also went on to observe that Indian journalists were ‘being attacked online as well as in the field.’ “All those who dare to criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist ideology online are branded as “anti-Indian” scum who must be purged. This results in appalling cyber-harassment campaigns in which journalists are threatened not only with death but also rape (as the troll armies like harassing women journalists, in particular),” the RSF report added.
The report also concluded that the period leading up to India’s general elections was a particularly dangerous time for journalists.
Norway is ranked first in the 2019 Index for the third year running while Finland (up two places) has taken second place from the Netherlands (down one at 4th), where two reporters who covered organized crime have had to live under permanent police protection. An increase in cyber-harassment caused Sweden (third) to lose one place. In Africa, the rankings of Ethiopia (up 40 at 110th) and Gambia (up 30 at 92nd) have significantly improved from last year’s Index.
Many authoritarian regimes have fallen in the Index. They include Venezuela (down five at 148th), where journalists have been the victims of arrests and violence by security forces, and Russia (down one at 149th), where the Kremlin has used arrests, arbitrary searches and draconian laws to step up the pressure on independent media and the Internet. At the bottom of the Index, both Vietnam (176th) and China (177th) have fallen one place, Eritrea (up 1 at 178th) is third from last, despite making peace with its neighbour Ethiopia, and Turkmenistan (down two at 180th) is now last, replacing North Korea (up one at 179th).