Country With The Motto Satyameva Jayate Does Not Want The Truth Anymore

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) listed 37 heads of state with the lowest press freedom under their jurisdiction, which includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Covid-19 apart, there are so many events taking place world over. We have Reporters Without Borders calling our Prime Minister ‘predator’.

Predator PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been termed as ‘a predator since taking office’, 2014. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) listed 37 heads of state with the lowest press freedom under their jurisdiction, which includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and Kim Jong-un, quite distinguished company. I will not get into comparisons here, because unlike the other two countries, India is considered as the ‘largest democracy’ in the world. Having recently posted this in my last column on LinkedIn, I heard promptly and at length, from an ardent bhakt who wrote how it had become a fashion to openly criticise our PM and how some dude allegedly living in some far off land, is said to have commented that Indian media has a lot of freedom. LOL! Yes, exactly that was my reaction. Of course, the person was promptly blocked, as now, it is pointless trying to debate and reason with these sorts.


Prime Minister Modi was included by the RSF in the ‘Press Freedom Predators’ gallery along with 36 other world leaders.


But the fact is there was more PM-bashing during Manmohan Singh’s time than now. Well, now many media houses have shut down, while other independent ones are struggling for funds or simply not considered mainstream. The fact is media is being gagged. So you have His Master’s Voices, thumping their frail chests louder than the 56-inch one. Promptly and blindly, stenographers ‘pad up’ and without asking questions, the government handouts are declared as breaking news. But kindly pause and ask, are you a better informed citizen because of this media? We have many who will immediately slam Indian media and say it useless, biased. As for foreign media, it is biased against India and these very poorly informed souls will play aloud the videos on the University of WhatsApp, as if it is their oxygen. The basic point is, even the Indian Constitution says the citizen has to be informed and the primary role of the media, which is the fourth pillar, is to inform the citizens.

Coming to the RSF, they consider the right to be informed as a basic human right and rightly so. Now, the RSF has termed the Indian PM a ‘predator of press freedom’, in their recent 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Gagged press

The fact is journalists have been jailed, threatened with sedition and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Many have been jailed. Five journalists were arrested in January 2021, the highest since 1992. In fact, India’s status has declined to ‘partly free’ in an index, and scored 67 on the citizens’ political rights, with 34 out of 40 for political rights and 33 out of 60 on civil liberties for 2021. Moreover, there was not a single state or Union territory where press freedom had not come under attack in 2020. We have seen the double talk of this dispensation. They laud press freedom on National Press Day, but in reality, we have seen that press freedom is being deliberately denied.

India’s rank has slipped from 71 in 2020 to 67 in 2021 when it comes to press freedom. Freedom House has, in fact stated in its note, “India’s status declined from Free to Partly Free due to the multiyear pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population and pursued a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups and protesters”. In their civil liberties section, India scores 2 out of 4 for ‘Are there free and independent media?’ They have commented, “The private media are vigorous and diverse, and investigations and scrutiny of politicians do occur. However, attacks on press freedom have escalated dramatically under the Modi government, and reporting has become significantly less ambitious in recent years.”


India slipped 4 spots to go ‘partly free’ from ‘free’ in Freedom House index.


Yes, it is about the media becoming less ambitious. And the fact that many issues need to be dealt with and debated, rather than be dished out with an agenda. Time and again, the media has either been used to divert public attention from pertinent issues, like where were the two top leaders during the second wave of the pandemic? Why were they not held responsible for the deaths of migrant workers returning home? Why was the PM not questioned about the lack of preparation for the second wave, the vaccine confusion and the Bharat Biotech vaccine not getting due approvals till date? We saw, instead, the media lauding the PM for his achievements and overcoming the second wave. The dead have already been forgotten, for no fault of theirs.

Corona coverage

A lot of false credit has been taken for the so-called overcoming of the corona pandemic in India. Honestly, from the first wave itself, there have been shortcomings and the fact is India has NOT overcome this virus. Keeping this harsh reality in mind, one would expect the head of the state to seize control of the vaccine situation. Instead, we saw more of branding India as a vaccine hub and problems with indigenous vaccines having surfaced.

The fact is: 2.5 million have died of corona in India. Murad Banaji wrote, “The problem was the scale of ignorance/disinformation around the impact of the pandemic in India.” He further stated, “The first wave saw excess mortality ranging from ~0.05 per cent to ~0.2 per cent in most states. Kerala and Rajasthan are less clear. By May 2021, this was up to 0.3 per cent to 0.4 per cent in some states.” So all along we have been made to believe as a nation that we had overcome the first wave and then the nation’s leaders became complacent. The Union home secretary, Ajay Bhalla has written to the states that the second wave is still not over and said, “Blatant violations of Covid norms have been observed in several parts of the country, especially in public transport and hill stations.”


Hundreds of people were seen bathing at Kempty Falls in Mussoorie without social distancing or masks.


Even before the second wave is yet to end, we are faced with the imminent third wave. We continue to be ‘surfing’, while the rest of the world has stepped up efforts on getting most of their population vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in India, by July 10, statistics show that 22.2 per cent have taken one dose, while 5.3 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. India is still way down in the vaccine drive. Even before the experts have given their final verdict on the third wave and also that the Delta variant of the virus is still prevalent, Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, has announced “India is better prepared to tackle the possible third wave of corona virus”. This hand-out is circulated and he gets extensive coverage for these claims, based on his observations, and not any scientific presumptions or studies. Any contrary claim will not be tolerated, promptly, the editors and management of the new organisation will be ‘directed’ to pull down the article if it criticises the government or an expert is quoted as saying. India cannot afford to be foolhardy anymore.

Now, this is precisely the integral part of freedom of the press that independent agencies have pointed out. Till now, national broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio have done the job of relaying government news. The mainstream media is NOT expected to the same. Facts and statistics show us the death rates and in most cities, we have seen that despite the lockdown, the death rates are rising, making some believe the third wave has already set in. Despite attempts to downplay the third wave fears and its impact, there is a worrying trend that shows the third wave is not going to be as insignificant as this government wants the nation to believe. As per Government of India data, 43,393 new deaths were registered, 44,459 recoveries and 911 deaths were reported. The virus has not ebbed, percentage of those vaccinated is still low. One seriously does not need to know rocket science to understand the danger signs are still there. But then the ones to show the true data will be termed anti-national and may be slapped with sedition charges.



Neeta Kolhatkar is a senior journalist with over 30 years of work experience across different media platforms. She is currently a freelancer and media consultant.

(Views Expressed Are Personal)

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