Center disagrees with India’s ranking in World Press Freedom Index

On Tuesday, the Center disagreed with India’s low ranking in the World Press Freedom Index prepared by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. The government claimed the report was based on a small sample and gave little or no importance to the “fundamentals of democracy”.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur made the remarks in a written response to Lok Sabha while answering a question about India’s low ranking in the index.

In March, Reporters Without Borders said India ranked 142nd out of 180 countries for press freedom. He added that the nation was classified as “bad” for journalism.

The media watchdog, in a report released in December, said India was among the five most dangerous countries in terms of journalists killed globally this year.

The Union Minister was asked whether the government had identified the reason for India’s poor ranking and whether any corrective action had been taken.

Thakur informed the Lower House that the government “did not subscribe” to the views of Reporters Without Borders and its report ranking the countries because the number of participants interviewed was not sufficient.

The minister also claimed the report had a “questionable methodology” for the investigation. Thakur also claimed that Reporters Without Borders lacked a clear definition of press freedom.

Thakur was also asked if the Center was aware of journalists falling under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in Tripura and criticism of the law by the Editors Guild of India.

But the Union minister said state governments were responsible for preventing, detecting and investigating crimes committed within their jurisdiction.

In November, Tripura police invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against lawyers and journalists for allegedly disseminating distorted and objectionable material about violence in the state.

The violence in Tripura was sparked after attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh since October 13.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad had organized a protest rally in the state on October 26, which led to violence and attacks on mosques as well as shops and houses of Muslims in Tripura.

During a tense situation in the state, police had claimed that the law and order situation in the state was “absolutely normal”. The force also claimed that no mosques had been burned down.

But a report by lawyers who were part of an investigation team said at least 12 mosques, nine shops, three homes of Muslims were targeted in the violence. He said the violence erupted due to “the irresponsibility of the administration, as well as extremist organizations and the vested interests of ambitious politicians”.

Tripura police had also arrested two HW News reporters while they were covering tensions. Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha have been accused of spreading communal discord while covering the violence.

They are also accused of “fabricating and concealing documents” on the recent violence, apparently as part of “a criminal conspiracy”. They were released on bail a week later.

On Tuesday, Thakur told Lok Sabha that the safety of journalists was important to the Center.

“An advisory specifically addressing the safety of journalists was issued to States/UTs on October 20, 2017, asking them to strictly enforce the law to ensure the safety and security of journalists,” he said.

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