On a day the global Press Freedom Index 2014 put India at the 140th position among 180 countries monitored, Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Wednesday warned that media freedom in the country was in peril.
Though India’s position on the Press Freedom Index — brought out by the Paris-headquartered Reporters Without Borders For Freedom of Information — remained unchanged since 2013, the Minister cited recent tweets by senior journalists that suggested intimidation by people behind the Chai pe Charcha campaign — BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s use of tea-stall meetings to reach out to people.
The Minister named neither Mr. Modi nor any journalist, but the past weeks have seen several senior mediapersons speak out about efforts to silence independent journalism.
“Those who have asked about the chai pe charcha ka kharcha [expenses incurred on the tea-stall meetings] have been intimidated and told that if you are not with us then you are against us and forfeit your right to speak,” he said during a function organised by the Publications Division of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry for the release of ‘India-2014’ Reference Annual.
Stating that a “spectre of intolerance looms over the nation,” Mr. Tewari stressed the need to nip it in the bud.
Speaking to mediapersons later, the Minister said “they may not be able to stir up a storm in a tea-cup but they have sent out the message that journalists who ask tough questions will be targeted and vilified.”