Journalists in India most vulnerable: Report

Journalists in India are among the most vulnerable in the South Asia, because attackers generally go scot-free, says a report of the International Federation of Journalists.

“The 2014 Impunity Index, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists, had revealed that Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as the worst offenders on impunity in the region. The situation, unfortunately, remains much the same,” noted the report titled ‘Freedom Frontier: Press Freedom in South Asia 2014-15’.

The report was jointly released by the International Federation of Journalists and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) at a national consultation on the freedom of media, organised jointly by the Unesco and Prasar Bharati to observe World Press Freedom Day here on Friday.

The report criticised the Indian government for banning the telecast of a documentary ‘India’s Daughter’, produced by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, saying, it “clearly” showed that India was yet to shed the “rather heavy burden of the public order argument” for restraining media freedom despite years of evolving jurisprudence on the matter.

Anomalies in India’s media freedom regime were “evident” in the number of journalists arrested and charged over the years under provisions of the law dealing with sedition and waging war against the state, it said.

“And this has occurred despite a categorical ruling by the Supreme Court that the sedition clause in Indian penal law is violative of the fundamental rights provisions save in a situation of imminent violence. The year gone by brought one such instance, with television journalist Jaikhlong Brahma being arrested on September 2, 2014 in Kokrajhar in the North-Eastern Indian state of Assam,” the report added.

The report also took note of the controversial “presstitute” remark made Union Minister and former Army chief Gen V K Singh (retd) and reports about the West Bengal state government issuing a directives in December last year that journalists found at any spot other than the media corner in Kolkata’s secretariat building should be detained.

The report also took note of the various targeted attacks on journalists in different parts of the country.

It express over the reports of paid news, saying, “In India, compulsions of the market, politics and the media industry put fundamental ethics of journalism to test with the phenomenon of paid news continuing to blur the difference between news and advertisement.”

The report hailed the Supreme Court for striking down Section 66A of Information Technology Act.

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