Media in India, The Fourth pillar of Democracy is in jeopardy. Consistently there has been rise in
- Suppression Of Independent Press
- Critics Thrown into Jail
- Journalists charged with sedition
- Slapp Suits
- Violence & Threats
The World’s Largest Democracy has seen continuous decline, according to the World Press Freedom Index Report where it pathetically ranked 140th of 180 countries, worst in over two decades.
Independent Journalist Practices are being suppressed in both Mainstream Media & New Media.
Mainstream Media’s Watchdog, Ministry Of Information & Broadcasting has been censoring news reports to align with Governments Actions. In 2020 MIB blocked the news channel MediaOneTV temporarily for covering a news story about the ‘mob attack on Muslims’ in the capital New Delhi. The block was lifted after 48 hours.
More often than ever in decades Journalists are thrown into Jail & charged with Anti National Practices. In 2019 the Government of India restricted media coverage on Citizenship Amendment Act protests claimed to prevent law and order in the country. The federal administration along with prime minister of India stated the coverage on CAA demonstrations as “promotion of anti-national attitudes”
Slapp Suits by Corporations & Individuals have become more common in the Nation. The Essar Group, a multi business conglomerate filed a defamation suit for ₹250 crores against Caravan, a magazine known for its investigative journalism, when it published a 14,000-word article that made a number of allegations of corrupt practices by the company. While Caravan has decided to contest the case in courts, such threats may discourage other media organisations to investigate stories around wrongdoing by big companies or individuals. Politicians are not far behind; former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa filed 213 defamation cases against her opponents and media outlets for making “derogatory” remarks about her.
Recently in the midst of Covid-19, Uttar Pradesh Police Filed an FIR against Scroll.in Executive Editor Supriya Sharma, for a report on the effects of the country’s lockdown to combat the coronavirus in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi.
In 2020 the government of India issued warnings against the foreign newspapers, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, The Economist, BBC, and Huffington Post for portraying the India’s image negatively.
The Press Council of India’s report on “Safety of Journalists” states that 80 journalists have been killed in India since 1990, with conviction in only one case so far.
Another Tactic used by the Government is Manipulating of the Government Advertising to Mainstream Media. Newspapers and magazines do not get Government Advertisings (a huge source of income for print media) which portrays ill doings of Government.
The Reason for these atrocities is the flawed design of Indian Legal System which does little to protect Press Freedom and more to Silence & Harass it.
What’s the Solution?
Amending Present laws to give more freedom to media, and reducing political interference with press.
One such law that has shown positive results in Western Nations is Anti-Slapp Law.
Anti-Slapp laws allows Judiciary to dismiss petitions against media, that are meant only to silent critics, harass journalists & burden them with the cost of legal defense.
The Glorifying Future of any nation lies in protecting the rights of those who speak up against ill will.