India ‘one of world’s deadliest places to practice journalism’

India becomes the world deadliest place for practising journalists, with 200 attacks in the last six years.

According to the Washington Post, At least 200 serious attacks on individual journalists have taken place during six years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule resulting in the killing of 40 of them, according to a recent study cited in a Washington Post article, which portrays India as “one of the world’s deadliest places to practice journalism.”

“And,” the Post’s Global Opinions writer, Jason Rezaian, warned that “it’s only getting worse”.

The coronavirus pandemic, he said, had provided a “new pretext for Modi to infringe on journalists and their work.”

While the Indian prime minister didn’t quite manage to pass legislation completely banning independent coverage at the outset of the pandemic, Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist and author, wrote that the journalistic climate has been steadily deteriorating regardless.

Noting that small media outlets were suffering financially, he said restrictions on movement prevent reporters from getting to the story. “And any journalists who dare to question the Modi government’s official line face threats and intimidation. All this is eroding what was once one of the world’s most vibrant media landscapes,” he wrote.

“While online attacks against prominent and critical voices with large social media followings have received growing international attention, other journalists working in remote corners of the country, who routinely face threats on their lives, get far less publicity. The extent to which the Modi government is prepared to silence any criticism of its actions borders on the absurd.”

Neha Dixit, an independent journalist based in Delhi, was quoted as saying in the article, “Even basic reporting on the failing health, food, transport infrastructures is being criminalized”.

“There is no tolerance for any reflection on state failure to provide the bare minimum during the pandemic. There is an equal attack on journalists across the country. The difference is that the attacks on journalists in urban areas get reported; the rural ones do not get attention.”

Rezaian said Dixit, a winner of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, was now sounding the alarm bells over the deteriorating treatment of the press in her homeland.

Since the government imposed limitations on commerce and movement inside India in late March, at least 10 reporters have been arrested or charged with criminal offences relating to their coverage of the pandemic, according to the Post.

“This increased legal pressure has led many Indian journalists to avoid reporting on sensitive issues,” the article said. “Few employees with jobs at competitive national media outlets are willing to risk their livelihoods or safety by doing critical reporting”. Meanwhile, due to the lack of personal safety for freelancers and shrinking budgets, coverage outside of large metropolises is disappearing. Some rural parts of the country are at risk of becoming news deserts.

“Since taking power in 2014, Modi and his government have shown no interest in maintaining a free press. In fact, the opposite is true.”

Ms. Dixit was cited as pointing out that the prime minister doesn’t hold press conferences as additional evidence of his disdain for the press. Such attempts to reduce official accountability can have far-reaching effects as (US) President (Donald) Trump’s similar approach has shown. “The same attitude has been adopted by the state governments who are also criminalizing journalism,” Dixit told the Post.

“The international community needs to start acknowledging that in the last six years, under the present government led by Modi, there have been unprecedented human rights violations in India,” Dixit was quoted as saying.

This article originally appeared in the Associated Press of Pakistan