Modi Govt Attacking Press Freedom in India Amid Covid Crisis: U.S. Congress

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO
Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

While the number of Covid deaths is the only parameter that reveals the impact of coronavirus, the Indian government is hiding the death data.

By Rakesh Raman

As the Indian government headed by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi continues its crackdown on journalists who expose the government’s failure to contain coronavirus (Covid-19), a powerful committee of the U.S. Congress has expressed its concerns over the attacks on press freedom in India.

Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Congress on Saturday (August 1) said that the Indian government is targeting journalists for critical coverage of the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Committee posted Engel’s remarks on its official Twitter account. “I’m concerned by reports of the Indian government’s targeting journalists who criticize its handling of Covid-19. While fighting the pandemic, we must not forget values—including Free Press—that are fundamental to a democratic society,” said Democrat Congressman Engel.

The Committee’s tweet also linked a July 31 article published by The Guardian which revealed that more than 50 Indian journalists have been arrested or had police complaints registered against them, or been physically assaulted over Covid-19 reporting.

The article added that facing a continuing upward trajectory in Covid-19 cases, the Indian government is clamping down on media coverage critical of its handling of the pandemic.

The Guardian article said that in a country where half-truths circulate over social media – in some cases spread by politicians – and dubious remedies have been pushed, the government argued before the supreme court that “fake news” triggered the exodus of day labourers from the cities.

The top court – which usually does not challenge government decisions – further put restrictions on media coverage by directing the media to “refer to and publish the official version about the developments.”

While the Indian governments (Central and State) are downplaying the effect of devastation being caused in the country, they are releasing understated figures of Covid infections and deaths.

In order to deceive the citizens, the governments in India are mostly quoting recovery figures which are totally irrelevant because it is a stated fact that nearly 95% of infected people will recover from coronavirus without any medical intervention.

While the number of Covid deaths is the only parameter that reveals the impact of coronavirus, the Indian government is hiding the death data.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications and research reports on different subjects. These publications include the “Covid Health Bulletin” that covers global coronavirus news and views.

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Rakesh Raman