India: Media rights organisations condemn contracting media freedom in India

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), together with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, CIVICUS, Access Now, International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, has expressed concern at the Indian authorities’ increasing targeting of journalists and online critics for their criticism of government policies and practices, including by prosecuting them under counterterrorism and sedition law

Various journalists organisations gathered to participate during the Joint Silent sit-in demonstration, protesting the rampant harassment of Media Persons, at Raisina Road near Parliament in Delhi on February 18, 2021. Credit: Piyal Bhattacharjee/ AFP

In a joint statement released on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the ten human and media rights organisations urged the Indian authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression, release any journalists detained on politically motivated charges for their critical reporting, and stop targeting journalists and muzzling independent media.

Consistent targeting of journalists, coupled with a broader crackdown on dissent, has emboldened Hindu nationalists to threaten, harass, and abuse journalists critical of the Indian government, both online and offline, with impunity, the groups said.

“Amid growing restrictions on media freedom, Indian authorities have arrested journalists on spurious terrorism and sedition charges, and have routinely targeted critics and independent news organisations, including raiding their workplaces”, the joint statement said.

The statement also highlights challenges caused by Israeli-produced spyware, Pegasus, to target journalists, with frequent internet shutdowns also hampering the ability of journalists to do their work, including accessing and disseminating information online.

Concerns were also raised at the misuse of various legal provisions related to sedition, counterterrorism, and national security laws to target and prosecute journalists, human rights activists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters, particularly those in Jammu and Kashmir. 

On World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the IFJ, on behalf of the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN), released its 20th annual South Asia Press Freedom Report for 2021-22, titled Solidarity and Survival: The Story of South Asia.  

According to the report’s India chapter, 4 journalists were killed and 12 were arrested between May 1, 2021, and  April 30, 2022. “Indian media is going through severe trials and tribulations, battling deep economic crises as well as political polarization”, the report summarises.

Read the joint advocacy statement here.

Read the South Asia Press Freedom Report 2021-22 (SAPFR) here.

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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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