World Press Freedom Index

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI)?
  • 2024 WPFI - The Best and the Worst
  • What the 2024 WPFI Highlights About India?

Why in News?

  • According to the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF for Reporters sans Frontières) annual index of freedom - 2024 World Press Freedom Index, India’s rank improved from 161 in 2023 to 159 in 2024 among 180 jurisdictions.
  • However, India’s score fell (from 36.62 to 31.28, and scores dropped in all but the security indicator), and the ranking improved because other countries had slipped in their rankings.
  • The government has in the past dismissed international rankings of freedoms in India as propaganda.

What is the World Press Freedom Index (WPFI)?

  • The WPFI is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by RSF (a France based international NGO) since 2002.
  • It only deals with press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism in the countries it assesses, nor does it look at human rights violations in general.
  • The press freedom questionnaire covers five categories - political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and security.
  • Thus, the index intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.

2024 WPFI - The Best and the Worst:

  • The overall decline in the political indicator has affected the trio at the top of the WPFI.
  • Norway, still in first place, has seen a fall in its political score, and Ireland (8th), where politicians have subjected media outlets to judicial intimidation, has ceded its leading position in the EU to Denmark (2nd), followed by Sweden (3rd).
  • The three Asian countries at the bottom of last year’s Index - Vietnam, China and North Korea - have ceded their positions to Afghanistan; Syria; and Eritrea (last).
  • Among the countries going to the polls this year, the U.S. was the most concerning in terms of press freedoms.

What the 2024 WPFI Highlights About India?

  • Press freedom is in crisis:
    • The RSF claimed that press freedom is in crisis in the world’s largest democracy.
    • 9 journalists and 1 media worker have been detained in India as of today, while no journalist/media worker has been killed in the country since January 2024.
  • Draconian laws:
    • The government has introduced several new laws that will give the government extraordinary power to control the media, censor news and silence critics.
    • This includes the Telecommunications Act 2023, the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023, and the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023.
  • Unofficial state of emergency:
    • The RSF's analysis mentioned that the government has engineered a spectacular rapprochement between the (ruling) party and the big families dominating the media.
    • For example, the Reliance group owns more than 70 media outlets that are followed by at least 800 million Indians.
  • Harassment of journalists:
    • The report said that journalists who are critical of the government are routinely subjected to online harassment, intimidation, threats and physical attacks, as well as criminal prosecutions and arbitrary arrests.
    • The situation also remains very worrisome in Kashmir, where reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries.

Q.1. What is the Telecommunications Act 2023?

The Telecommunications Act 2023 is an act of the Parliament of India to replace the Indian Telegraph Act. 1885. It aims to consolidate laws relating to development, expansion and operation of telecommunication services and networks.

Q.2. What is the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023?

It extends the regulatory scope of government to cover over-the-top (OTT) Content, digital news, and current affairs. It also has expansive and almost all-encompassing definitions for stakeholders.

Source: India press freedom score falls, says Reporters sans Frontieres | LM