World Press Freedom Index 2023: India ranks 161 out of 180 countries.
On World Press Freedom Day, global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its 21st edition reported India’s rank in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index has declined to 161 out of 180 countries. India was ranked at 150 in 2022.
While Pakistan's position has gotten far better when it comes to media freedom as it was placed at 150, an improvement from last year’s 157th rank. Sri Lanka also made significant improvements on the index, ranking 135th this year as against 146th in 2022.
Norway, Ireland and Denmark occupied the top three positions in press freedom, while Vietnam, China and North Korea constituted the bottom three.
While Countries which ranked lower than India include Bangladesh (163), Turkey (165), Saudi Arabia (170) and Iran (177). China and North Korea occupy the last spots at 179 and 180, respectively.
Reportedly, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) comes out with a global ranking of press freedom every year. According to an article by the Hindu, RSF is an international NGO whose self-proclaimed aim is to defend and promote media freedom. Headquartered in Paris, it has consultative status with the United Nations. The objective of the World Press Freedom Index, which it releases every year, “is to compare the level of press freedom enjoyed by journalists and media in 180 countries and territories” in the previous calendar year.
RSF defines press freedom as “the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety.”
The ranking is based on a country’s performance in five broad categories: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and safety of journalists. Of the five, India’s ranking was lowest in the safety of journalists category (172) and best in the social indicator category (143).
In its opening remarks about why India has been classified this way, RSF states, “The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media and the concentration of media ownership all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in “the world’s largest democracy”, ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right.”
"Originally a product of the anti-colonial movement, the Indian press used to be seen as fairly progressive but things changed radically in the mid-2010s, when Narendra Modi became prime minister and engineered a spectacular rapprochement between his party, the BJP, and the big families dominating the media. The prime example is undoubtedly the Reliance Industries group led by Mukesh Ambani, now a personal friend of Modi’s, who owns more than 70 media outlets that are followed by at least 800 million Indians. Similarly, the takeover of the NDTV channel at the end of 2022 by tycoon Gautam Adani, who is also very close to Narendra Modi, signalled the end of pluralism in the mainstream media. Very early on, Modi took a critical stance vis-à-vis journalists, seeing them as “intermediaries” polluting the direct relationship between himself and his supporters. Indian journalists who are too critical of the government are subjected to all-out harassment and attack campaigns by Modi devotees known as bhakts,” the report further said.
(With inputs from The Wire)
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