Reporters Without Borders has released a list of what it said were ‘predators of press freedom’ from around the world. Also featuring in the ‘predators gallery.’ is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While releasing the names of the 37 heads of state, the RSF said, “There are now 37 leaders from around the world in RSF’s predators of press freedom gallery and no one could say this list is exhaustive,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Each of these predators has their own style. Some impose a reign of terror by issuing irrational and paranoid orders. Others adopt a carefully constructed strategy based on draconian laws. A major challenge now is for these predators to pay the highest possible price for their oppressive behaviour. We must not let their methods become the new normal.”
Writing about Modi’s inclusion in the hall of shame, the RSF said that India was one of the ‘world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly.’
“They are exposed to every kind of attack, including police violence against reporters, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials. Ever since the general elections in the spring of 2019, won overwhelmingly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pressure has increased on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line,” it said.
The RSF said that ‘Indians who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to radical right-wing Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the public debate.’
It added, “The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that annoy Hindutva followers are terrifying and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. The campaigns are particularly violent when the targets are women.
“Criminal prosecutions are meanwhile often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment. In 2020, the government took advantage of the coronavirus crisis to step up its control of news coverage by prosecuting journalists providing information at variance with the official position. The situation is still very worrying in Kashmir, where reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries and must cope with utterly Orwellian content regulations, and where media outlets are liable to be closed, as was the case with the valley’s leading daily, the Kashmir Times.”
Other notable heads of state included in the list of ‘predators of press freedom,’ are Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Chinese President Xi Xinping and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
According to the RSF, 19 of these 37 predators rule countries that are coloured red on the its press freedom map, meaning their situation is classified as ‘bad’ for journalism, and 16 rule countries coloured black, meaning the situation is “very bad.” The average age of the predators is 66. More than a third (13) of these tyrants come from the Asia-Pacific region.