By Lalit K Jha
Washington: India has dropped nine places to 140th rank in the list of 179 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index, which its authors said is the lowest for the “world’s biggest democracy” since 2002.
“In Asia, India (140th, -9) is at its lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because Internet censorship continues to grow,” Reporters Without Borders said in its World Press Freedom Index for the year 2013.
“China (173rd, +1) shows no sign of improving. Its prisons still hold many journalists and netizens, while increasingly unpopular Internet censorship continues to be a major obstacle to access to information.”
As last year, the list is topped by three European countries – Finland, Netherlands and Norway.
Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea continue to be at the bottom of the list as has been in the last three years.
“The Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“In dictatorships, news providers and their families are exposed to ruthless reprisals, while in democracies news providers have to cope with the media’s economic crises and conflicts of interest. While their situation is not always comparable, we should pay tribute to all those who resist pressure whether it is aggressively focused or diffuse,” he said.
According to the report, in almost all parts of the world, influential countries, including India that are regarded as “regional models” have fallen in the index.
Observing that there has been general decline in freedom of information in South Asia, the report said the Indian subcontinent was the Asian region that saw the sharpest deterioration in the climate for those involved in news and information in 2012.
“In the Maldives, which crashed to 103rd place (-30), the events that led to the resignation of President Mohammed Nasheed in February led to violence and threats against journalists in state television and private media outlets regarded as pro-Nasheed by the coup leaders,” it said.
In India, the “world’s biggest democracy,” the authorities insist on censoring the Web and imposing more and more taboos, while violence against journalists goes unpunished and the regions of Kashmir and Chhattisgarh become increasingly isolated.”
“Bangladesh is not far behind. Its journalists are frequently targets of police violence. When they are not acting as aggressors, the security forces stand by passively while enemies of the media enjoy impunity and are rarely brought to justice.
“The ability of journalists to work freely in Pakistan (159th, -8) and Nepal (118th, -12) continued to worsen in the absence of any government policy to protect media workers.
Despite having a diverse and lively media, Pakistan remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters,” the report said.