The World Press Freedom Index 2021 published by the international journalism body, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is here. Congratulations! India has not slipped further on this scale. India retains 142 out of 180 spots. However, the current position is not a healthy one, to begin with. India continues to be amongst the countries classified as “bad” for journalism. 

India has been listed as one of the countries that are dangerous for journalists trying to do their jobs. The list was topped by Norway followed by Finland and Denmark. Eritrea is in the 180th position. North Korea is ranked at 179, Turkmenistan at 178, and China at 177. 

India has been constantly sliding down its position since 2016 (133). Nepal and Sri Lanka also have performed better than India in the South Asian region. 

The report highlighted various points like Prime Minister Narendra Modi “tightens his grip on media”. Journalists “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” the report pointed out. 

The report also pointed out the vulnerability of the critical journalists “to public condemnation in the form of extremely violent social media hate campaigns that include calls for them to be killed, especially if they are women”.

The report suggested that draconian laws exist in most of these low-ranking countries and are “particularly instructive”. The report also called out the repressive actions and curtailing of the usage of social media. 

The report also highlights that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partially blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation. 

The report stated that only 12 of the Index’s 180 countries (7%) can claim to offer a favourable environment for journalism. 

Last year the report was not well received by the Government. Union Minister for Information and Broadcast Prakash Javadekar had tweeted on May 2, 2020, expressing his discontentment over the survey and said that India enjoys absolute press freedom. He also remarked that sooner or later such surveys would be exposed. 

The report also recalls that there has been a dramatic deterioration in press freedom during the pandemic. There has been a significant drop in the level of trust people have in journalists. 

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said that the production and distribution of information “are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors”.