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World Press Freedom Index 2021

India has maintained same position as last year on a global press freedom index and is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2021 , produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a French non-governmental organization.

  • This is despite the fact that for a year, on directions from Cabinet Secretary of India, an index monitoring cell worked to improve the ranking

Analysis

  • The latest index ranks 180 countries, topped, yet again, by Norway followed by Finland and Denmark, while Eritrea is at the bottom.
  • China is ranked 177, and is only above North Korea at 179 and Turkmenistan at 178.
  • This year Index shows that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation.
  • While India has not slipped further on the World Press Freedom Index 2021, however, it continues to be counted among the countries classified “bad” for journalism.
  • The report stated that India shares the “bad” classification with Brazil, Mexico and Russia.
  • With “four journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020, India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly”.
  • India is ranked 142, same as last year, after it had consistently slid down from 133 in 2016.
  • In the South Asian neighbourhood, Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, Myanmar (before the coup) at 140, Pakistan at 145 and Bangladesh at 152.
  • For India, the latest report has blamed an environment of intimidation created by BJP supporters for any critical journalist, who, the report said, is marked as “anti-state” or “anti-national”.
  • Further, it said that criminal prosecutions are meanwhile “often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities” with sections for sedition also used.
  • The RSF representatives however questioned the extended Internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir from August 5, 2019 which went on to nearly a year.

All about World Press Freedom Index

  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF) publishes the World Press Freedom Index each year since 2002
  • It measures the level of freedom available to journalists and not the quality of journalism.
  • Higher ranks and scores indicate lower freedom of the press.
  • The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF
  • The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are: Pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.

Reporters Without Borders

  • Reporters Without Borders, in French Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), is an international organization founded in France in 1985 to advocate for press freedom worldwide.
  • It has received numerous awards for its work, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005.
  • The organization is headquartered in Paris.
  • With a presence on five continents, RSF defends:
  • imprisoned or persecuted journalists and media personnel;
  • exposes mistreatment and torture of journalists;
  • provides financial aid for struggling media personnel or companies (as well as for the families of imprisoned journalists); and
  • promotes journalists’ safety, particularly in war zones.
  • After obtaining evidence of a transgression, RSF pressures governments through publicity campaigns and protest letters.

World Press Freedom Prize

  • The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was created in 1997.
  • Each year it honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.
  • The Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper.
  • World Press Freedom Day – May 3rd.

Right to Freedom of Press in India

  • In India, freedom of the press has been treated as part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  • However, as mentioned in Article 19(2), reasonable restrictions can be placed on this right, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Hence, freedom of the media is not an absolute freedom.
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