Journalists Urge Blinken to Raise Press Freedom Issues in India

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Department of State
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Department of State

By RMN News Service

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives, and leading journalists from press freedom, called on the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to raise issues related to press freedom and harassment of journalists during his talks with Indian officials in New Delhi.

Secretary Blinken is on a two-day visit – beginning July 27 – to India, where he will meet his counterpart S. Jaishankar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior government officials.

In its statement released on July 27, IPI said that human rights will figure on the agenda of his talks with Indian officials. In a letter to Secretary Blinken, IPI has urged him to raise the issue of declining press freedom and the harassment of independent journalists and media organizations in the country.

“The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has displayed complete intolerance to criticism and resorted to legal harassment to punish those journalists and media organizations who are critical of its policies and speak truth to power,” IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said in the letter to Secretary Blinken.

The IPI statement added that draconian laws like sedition, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and the Disaster Management Act have been regularly invoked against several prominent editors and journalists who dared to question government’s policies and actions, especially its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The recent revelations that some 40 journalists were targeted with the Pegasus spyware shows the extent to which the government has gone to invade the professional and private lives of journalists in order to stifle press freedom and human rights in the country,” Trionfi noted.

Meanwhile, Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – which works to protect press freedom in all parts of the world – has added Modi to its list of “predators of press freedom.”

Modi joins the list with other authoritarian rulers including Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Myanmar’s military head Min Aung Hlaing, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan PM Imran Khan, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

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Rakesh Raman