India’s press freedom has rapidly declined in recent years: Data

According to the press freedom index, India is currently ranked 159 out of the 180 nations analysed

Updated - May 15, 2024 04:59 pm IST

Published - May 15, 2024 04:18 pm IST

India is ranked 159 out of the 180 nations considered in the 2024 edition of the press freedom index, published by the organisation Reporters Without Borders. While this is a marginal improvement from last year, India’s performance in the recent past has been consistently poor.

Chart 1 | The chart shows India’s ranking in the press freedom index over the years.

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It is important to note that India has been ranked over 100 since 2003, which means that press freedom has been poor for a very long time. However, press freedom has eroded rapidly in recent years, with India being ranked 161 out of 180 nations last year, the lowest ever for the country. In the 2024 index, its ranking improved by two places to 159.

According to the index, press freedom in India is currently comparable to that of the occupied Palestinian territories; the UAE, an absolute monarchy; Turkey, a flawed democracy; and Russia, an authoritarian regime.

Table 2 | The table shows the 2024 press freedom rankings of select countries.

This year too, the Scandinavian countries — Norway, Denmark, and Sweden — were the best performers, while Eritrea, Syria, and Afghanistan were the worst. Among the BRICS countries (the old list), Brazil and South Africa enjoy greater press freedom than India, whereas China and Russia are ranked lower. Among South Asian nations, except Bangladesh, all the other countries rank better than India in the latest list.

While India’s press freedom has eroded in recent years, the slide has been steeper in many other countries. But many countries have shown a record increase too.

Table 3 | The table lists the biggest losers and gainers in the press freedom rankings of 2024, compared with 2019.

Bhutan was ranked 80 in 2019 and slid to 147 in 2024, showing the biggest decline. Hong Kong and Afghanistan followed. On the other hand, the Central African Republic, Timor-Leste, and Montenegro recorded the biggest increases.

Italy and Argentina, which belong to the set of countries where press freedom rankings have dropped in the last five years, were discussed in detail in the report. Argentinian President Javier Milei’s decision to shut the public press agency Telam is a “worrisome symbolic act,” the report says. In Italy, a member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s coalition government is trying to acquire news agency AGI. Despite improvements in its score, Greece has been criticised over its continued failure to deal with a scandal around wiretapping journalists by the intelligence service and the murder of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in 2021.

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Notably, the Wall Street Journal has announced that it will shift its Asia headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore, in a letter sent to staff and seen by AFP. The U.S. newspaper said its decision comes after other foreign firms have reconsidered their operations in the financial hub. Hong Kong authorities this year introduced a new national security law, which critics say expanded the city’s powers to prosecute dissidents and was scaring away foreign businesses. This law expands on a national security law implemented by China in 2020 to quell the huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019.

In Israel, Al Jazeera went off air on Sunday after the Benjamin Netanyahu government shut it down following a long-running feud. The Qatar-based channel decried the move as “criminal”. Israel’s press enjoys less freedom in 2024 compared to 2019: the country’s ranking dropped to 101 from 88.

With inputs from AFP and Reuters

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