Critical media houses and independent journalists in India are facing growing pressure and harassment from ruling authorities and their supporters at the detriment of democratic principles. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) condemn the machinations by the Central and some state government and their supporters to curb media freedom and further endangering the safety of the journalists through a campaign of harassment.
A resolution of the National Executive Committee of the IJU said that the Central government as well as some Indian state governments were responsible for misusing their power to pressurize and financially cripple critical media.
The IJU cited the case of Hindi news channel ABP News which was denied corporate advertising and its transmission signals blocked, purportedly as a means to force the resignation of two of its senior editors who had been critical of the government. Similarly, the state governments of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have covertly ordered cable and DTH operators not to beam the signals of news channels critical of government operations. In Telangana state, the editor of Telugu daily Mana Telangana was also forced to resign after government pulled its advertising off the newspaper. It resumed financial support a day after its editor’s resignation.
Individual journalists critical of some governments are also facing increased online harassment and threats. The online viral campaign ‘Indians Against Biased Media’, using the hashtag #IABM, continues to denunciate and disparage the professionalism of critical journalists in the country and expose them to further attacks and self-censorship.
The IJU President S N Sinha said: “The pressure on the media houses and independent journalists to conform to the diktats of ruling dispensations not only weakens the foundations of democracy in the country but also violates the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution. The fundamental duty of independent media and journalists is talk to power and call those in power to account.”
The IJU called upon organisations of the working journalists, editors, conscientious newspaper managements and democratic forces to strongly resist the overt and covert pressure of both Central and State governments for the sake of democracy.
The IFJ said: “The pressure on media and journalists who criticize the ruling powers in India has increased exponentially to great global concern. This is an unacceptable situation in a country that has long prided itself as the world’s largest democracy. The IFJ condemns the efforts to silence critical media and journalists in India and we call on the Indian government to ensure the freedom and independence of India’s media is respected and protected.”