The Paris-based media watch group Reporters Without Borders has expressed serious concern at an “alarming deterioration in the working environment of journalists in India” and demanded that the government ensure the safety of journalists who are feeling threatened.
Reporters Without Borders said in a report that at least three journalists were killed in India in 2017 and that a fourth case is still under investigation. In 2018, four journalists were killed in the first six months of the year itself. “The hate speech directed toward journalists has increased massively, causing serious concern for their safety,” the report said.
“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals,” the report said.
There was no immediate reaction from the government. The group demanded a swift and independent investigation of cases in which journalists have been targeted.
The watchdog mentioned Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari’s assassination in June this year and said that while in 2017 three journalists were killed in connection with their work, the “situation appears to have worsened significantly” in 2018.
On July 3, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders Christophe Deloire wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him that an incident report was issued in relation to press freedom in the country, and asking him to take urgent action.
The report said that hostility from political leaders and parties is not limited to “authoritarian countries” such as Turkey and Egypt, which have been ranked at 157 and 161 respectively. “Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which ‘sedition’ is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship,” the report added.