Modi’s Nationalism Is Threat to Press Freedom in India: Global Report

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

Now it is being observed that India has become a kakistocracy where the government is under the control of the worst, least qualified, and most unscrupulous people. ~ Rakesh Raman

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By Rakesh Raman

Notwithstanding Indian government’s claims of ensuring press freedom in the country, India lost 3 notches to fall at No. 136 in the latest 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders, the World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

As journalists who express dissent are being constantly harassed and even murdered in India, Reporters Without Borders observed that the Hindu nationalists belonging to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are “trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate.”

The India Index also observed that self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media. Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals, the world report stated while releasing the Index.

It adds that 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. However, according to the report, no journalist has so far been convicted of sedition.

It is largely being observed that the Modi government is suppressing the voice of the media and particularly scuttling all corruption investigations in which BJP politicians are involved.

Recently, for example, with the court’s help BJP targeted a news site The Wire which had reported about an alleged corruption scandal involving Jay Amit Shah, the son of BJP chief Amit Shah.

A former Indian minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said that his party has “lost the moral high ground” in the Shah case. In an interview with a local TV channel NDTV, Sinha also said the defamation case that Jay Amit Shah has decided to file against The Wire is an attempt by the BJP to “suppress the voice of the media.”

Similarly, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said it is concerned over the filing of a Rs. 100-crore criminal defamation case against seven persons including the reporter and editors of online news portal The Wire.

As the Modi government is trying to hide increasing corruption cases in which politicians and bureaucrats are involved, it is threatening journalists and media houses.

Despite Modi’s loud claims of weeding out corruption from the country, corruption is increasing rapidly in India. A new “Freedom in the World 2017” report – released by Freedom House, a Washington-based independent watchdog organization – highlights rampant political and bureaucratic corruption in India. It reveals that corruption has a negative effect on government efficiency and economic performance. According to the report, there is increasing concern about harassment of bloggers and social-media users by Hindu nationalists.

“Though politicians and civil servants at all levels are regularly caught accepting bribes or engaging in other corrupt behavior, a great deal of corruption goes unnoticed and unpunished,” the report said in its findings.

As traditional media is totally controlled by the Modi government, most corruption and critical cases do not get reported. “Most media houses now are either owned or controlled by those who are direct beneficiaries of this crony business culture,” said journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who has started a fundraiser on a crowdfunding site to expose corruption in Modi regime.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a government’s National award-winning journalist and social activist. He has formed an environment-protection group called Green Group in Delhi. Earlier, he had been associated with the United Nations (UN) through United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as a digital media expert to help businesses use technology for brand marketing and business development. He also runs a free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.

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Rakesh Raman