New Delhi: The Centre does not agree to conclusions drawn by Reporters Without Borders about press freedom in India for various reasons, including very low sample size and little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting told Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
In a written reply to a question on India being ranked at 142 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders this year, information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said the adoption of the methodology by the publisher of the report is “questionable and non-transparent”.
“The World Press Freedom Index is published by a foreign non-government organisation, Reporters Without Borders. The government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings. It does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organisation for various reasons, including very low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, adoption of a methodology which is questionable and non-transparent, lack of clear definition of press freedom, among others,” he said.
According to Reporters Without Borders, India has been listed under countries considered “bad” for journalism and is among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Among India’s neighbours, Nepal is ranked at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, and Myanmar, before the military coup, features at 140. However, Pakistan and Bangladesh secured 145 and 152 ranks on the index, respectively.
The report also specifically called out Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a head of government who has tightened “his grip on media”. With “four journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020, India is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists trying to do their job properly”, the report observed.
The I&B minister asserted that the government is committed to ensure right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Replying to questions on the safety and freedom of journalists as well the incident where Tripura police recently booked 102 people, including media persons, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, he said, “Police and public order are state subjects under the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India, and the state governments are responsible for prevention, detection, registration and investigation of crime and for prosecuting the criminals through their law enforcement agencies.”
The central government attaches “highest importance” to the safety and security of “every citizen of the country, including journalists”, he said.
“An advisory specifically on safety of journalists was issued to states and UTs on October 20, 2017, requesting them to strictly enforce the law to ensure the safety and security of media persons,” Thakur added.
(With inputs from PTI)