India slips in World Press Freedom Index, ranks 161 out of 180 countries

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi
May 04, 2023 03:54 AM IST

The Indian government does not agree with the country rankings of the World Press Freedom Index.

Press freedom in India has gone from “problematic” to “very bad”, with the country slipping 11 ranks in the World Press Freedom Index, an analysis released by Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that evaluates the environment for journalism across countries said.

A college student participates in a protest to defend press freedom.(AFP Photo/Representative)
A college student participates in a protest to defend press freedom.(AFP Photo/Representative)

“The situation has gone from ‘problematic’ to ‘very bad’ in three other countries: Tajikistan (down 1 at 153rd), India (down 11 at 161st) and Turkey (down 16 at 165th),” said the report released on Wednesday, celebrated globally as World Press Freedom Day.

The index ranks 180 countries.

HT reached out to the information & broadcasting ministry for comment but did not get one immediately.

The Indian government does not agree with the country rankings of the World Press Freedom Index, information & broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said in Parliament in March, in a written response to a question.

He added that the government also does not agree with the inferences of the index, citing low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, and a questionable methodology.

To be sure, the relative rankings of some countries -- Pakistan rose up seven ranks, and was placed at 150 , and Afghanistan was ranked 152nd -- do raise some questions about the methodology.

The latest report said that in India “media takeovers by oligarchs close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have jeopardised pluralism, while the Erdogan administration in Turkey has stepped up its persecution of journalists in the run-up to elections scheduled for 14 May”.

The reference is to the acquisition of NDTV, a TV channel now owned by the Adani Group.

For the seventh year in a row, Norway ranked 1st on the Index. “ But – unusually – a non-Nordic country is ranked second, namely Ireland (up 4 places at 2nd), ahead of Denmark (down 1 place at 3rd). The Netherlands (6th) has risen 22 places, recovering the position it had in 2021, before crime reporter Peter R. de Vries was murdered,” the report stated.

According to the report, of the 180 countries and territories analysed – the situation is “very serious” in 31 countries, “difficult” in 42, “problematic” in 55, and “good” or “satisfactory” in 52 countries.

“In other words, the environment for journalism is “bad” in seven out of 10 countries, and satisfactory in only three out of ten,” it noted. “The World Press Freedom Index shows enormous volatility in situations, with major rises and falls and unprecedented changes, such as Brazil’s 18-place rise and Senegal’s 31-place fall. This instability is the result of increased aggressiveness on the part of the authorities in many countries and growing animosity towards journalists on social media and in the physical world. The volatility is also the consequence of growth in the fake content industry, which produces and distributes disinformation and provides the tools for manufacturing it,” Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General said in the report.

It also added that the last three slots were occupied by Asian countries. “The last three places are occupied solely by Asian countries: Vietnam (178th), which has almost completed its hunt of independent reporters and commentators; China (down 4 at 179th), the world’s biggest jailer of journalists and one of the biggest exporters of propaganda content; and, to no great surprise, North Korea (180th),” the report said.

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