New World Report Reveals Attack on Media and Rampant Corruption in India

Narendra Modi (file photo). Courtesy: PIB
Narendra Modi (file photo). Courtesy: PIB

New World Report Reveals Attack on Media and Rampant Corruption in India

Attack on Media

The private media in India is vigorous and diverse, and investigations and scrutiny of politicians are common. Nevertheless, revelations of close relationships between politicians, business executives, and lobbyists, and some leading media personalities and owners of media outlets have dented public confidence in the press.

These are among the findings of a new Freedom in the World 2018 report released by Freedom House – a Washington-based independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world.

The report says that journalists risk harassment, death threats, and sometimes, physical violence, and such attacks are rarely punished. In April, according to the report, the state of Maharashtra passed a law mandating firmer protections for journalists and harsher punishments for those who commit violence against them.

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Internet access is largely unrestricted, though officials periodically implement overly broad blocks on supposedly offensive content to prevent communal or political unrest. Authorities have also used security, defamation, and hate-speech laws, as well as contempt-of-court charges, to curb critical voices in the media, the report reveals.

Rampant Corruption

It further says that the landmark 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act is widely used to improve transparency and expose corrupt activities. Between 4 and 6 million requests are made under the Act each year.

Since the passage of the RTI Act, however, at least 65 right-to-information users and activists have been murdered, and more than 400 have been assaulted or harassed, according to the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. According to the report, police stand accused of turning a blind eye to these attacks.

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In 2015, the report says, the Lok Sabha adopted amendments to the 2014 Whistleblowers Protection Act. Opposition members criticized those changes, and subsequent ones, for diluting the effectiveness of the act, which was already regarded as limited in scope.

 

The report says that politicians and civil servants at all levels are regularly caught accepting bribes or engaging in other corrupt behavior. While large-scale scams often come to light, a great deal of corruption is thought to go unnoticed and unpunished.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, which the President signed in 2014, creates independent government bodies tasked with receiving complaints of corruption against public servants or politicians, investigating claims, and pursuing convictions through the courts.

According to the report, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and members of his government have signaled support for the law, but there is little sign that it is being implemented.

Elected leaders have the authority to govern in practice, and civilian control of the military is codified in the constitution. However, the report says, political corruption has a negative effect on government efficiency.

The report reveals that political life is vibrant and people are generally able to form political parties and assert party membership or their own candidacies without interference. However, according to the report, the opaque financing of political parties—notably through electoral bonds that allow donors to obscure their identities—remains a source of concern.

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Rakesh Raman