eLearning | Find press reports on India’s tribal heritage and democracy: Journalism without Fear or Favour, The Committee to Protect Journalists & United Nations

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On May 3, national and local celebrations for World Press Freedom Day will take place around the world, some in the form of online debates and workshops.

UNESCO is launching a global campaign on media and social media channels, with a focus on “Journalism without Fear or Favour” in an increasingly complex media landscape. Join them on May 3rd for an interactive free livestreamed event to celebrate World Press Freedom Day 2020: ” Difference Day Conference 2020.” Also, on May 4th through the 6th, there will be several events including: High-level Dialogue on Press Freedom and Tackling Disinformation in the COVID-19 context, webinars, and online discussions via Facebook Live, YouTube, and Microsoft teams, amongst other digital platforms. Details are available on the UNESCO site.

The sub-themes for this year are:

  • Safety of Women and Men Journalists and Media Workers
  • Independent and Professional Journalism free from Political and Commercial Influence
  • Gender Equality in All Aspect of the Media

Source: United Nations World Press Freedom Day 3 May
URL: https://www.un.org/en/observances/press-freedom-day
Date visited: 3 May 2020

Image © PARI People’s Archive of Rural India reporting on Covid-19 >>
Related posts: how India’s tribal communities cope with the pandemic >>

Covering the human cost of Covid-19
The nationwide Covid-19 lockdown that started on March 25 [2020] has triggered distress for millions of ordinary Indians – stranded migrant workers, farmers, sugarcane cutters, Adivasis, Dalits, sanitation workers, construction labourers, cancer patients staying on city pavements, brick kiln labourers, pastoral nomads, and others. While many are on the brink with no work, income or food, several continue to work amid extremely hazardous conditions | Read about them in these PARI reports from across the country >>

Journalists across India are at risk of physical and digital attack in retaliation for their reporting. And during election campaigns, these dangers can increase.

Source: “Results of India’s election climate for journalist safety are in” by Kunal Majumder/CPJ India Correspondent, The Committee to Protect Journalists (23 May 2019)
URL: https://cpj.org/2019/05/india-election-journalist-safety-toolkit-harassed-legal-action/
Date visited: 6 November 2020

The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news safely and without fear of reprisal.

Every year, hundreds of journalists are attacked, imprisoned, or killed. For more than 30 years, CPJ has been there to defend them and fight for press freedom.  […]  

How We Protect Journalists
CPJ’s work is based on its research, which provides a global snapshot of obstructions to a free press worldwide. CPJ’s research staff documents hundreds of attacks on the press each year. In our quest for a free media, CPJ denounces press freedom violations, meets with heads of state and high-ranking officials, spearheads or advises on diplomatic efforts, and works with other organizations to ensure that justice prevails when journalists are imprisoned or killed. CPJ also provides comprehensive, life-saving support to journalists and media support staff working around the world through up-to-date safety and security information and rapid response assistance.

Source: What We Do – The Committee to Protect Journalists
URL: https://cpj.org/about/ 
Date visited: 6 November 2020

There was a time when, in terms of freedom of press, India was in an enviable position among the developing nations. But that was 40 years ago […].

Today if I were to claim that we are in an enviable position, then I will be accused of spreading fake news.

Source: “Today’s times can’t be exaggerated as Emergency: N. Ram”, report on a webinar organised by Live Law on “Criminalising Journalism and Cinema” (The Hindu, 6 February 2021)
URL: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/todays-times-cant-be-exaggerated-as-emergency-n-ram/article33768798.ece
Date visited: 22 June 2021

“At present, India has 1,350 prisons with a rated full capacity of 4,03,739 prisoners. All jails are bursting with overcrowding and degrading inhuman conditions, so much for standards of human rights of prisoners in terms of the Constitution of India. The Constitution envisioned prisons as centres of reforms, which is not happening.” – Time to tame torturers (tehelka.com) >>

See also: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70 | Human Rights Commission (posts) | National Human Rights Commission: www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India) >>

‘The World Press Freedom Index 2020’ said that with no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved. “However, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials,” it said. 

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, is a non-profit organisation that works to document and combat attacks on journalists around the world. South Asia in general features poorly on the index | Read the full report here >>

Source: “India ranks 142nd on global press freedom index”, Economic Times (India), 22 April 2020
URL: https://m.economictimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/india-ranks-142nd-on-global-press-freedom-index/articleshow/75279460.cms
Date visited: 3 May 2020

“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events.” – Meenakshi Ganguly (South Asia director at Human Rights Watch) quoted by Soutik Biswas (BBC News, 4 February 2021)

Controlling the media

India’s press freedom rankings have deteriorated consistently in recent years, but one can still wonder – how exactly does the state control media coverage of such a major migrant crisis? The mechanisms of controlling the media are numerous. […]

And in cases where the news coverage is critical of government policies, journalists are prosecuted. Last month, the Editors Guild of India expressed concern over “a growing patter of misuse of criminal laws to intimate journalists” and the International Press Institute released a similar statement. It is not necessary to prosecute each instance of critical reporting – legal harassment and action against a few serves as a deterrent for others. […]

Aman Abhishek is a PhD student in media studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Source: “How the Modi Government Manufactured Public Opinion During the Migrant Crisis” by Aman Abhishek, TheWire, 25 June 2020
URL: https://thewire.in/media/covid-19-migrant-crisis-public-opinion-modi
Date visited: 25 June 2020

“Democracy: Institutions and Individuals”: Special lecture for students of journalism by Kannan Gopinathan @ACJIndia #ACJLive
The Special Lecture by Kannan Gopinathan on “Democracy – Individuals and Institutions” was hosted by the Asian College of Journalism on 2 September 2020
The full transcript including questions and answers is found here:

2020, we made our citizens walk thousands of kilometres. Then, they were beaten up at every border.”

“Every individual in this country is being asked what they have done for the government instead of what the government has done for them.”, claims Kannan. He remarks, “Citizens are being made to perennially feel obligated. Citizens feel like they are not doing enough for the government, and as if they aren’t worthy enough to ask questions.”

The question that he posed is on point. He asks, “When you feel something terribly wrong is happening in your own country… if I don’t speak up in my own country, where do I speak up?”

Adding to that, “We were told national integration was happening with the removal of Article 370. We were told Kashmir was being developed.” Optimistically, he quips, “Country is run by the collective intellect… It is the intellectual discourse that guide the country forward.” […]

He gives invaluable advice to budding journalists, “As a journalist, you should always ask questions.” […]

“370 has larger context starting from Independence. He was serving as District Magistrate of Mizoram. How many of us know that IAF has dropped bombs on their own citizens? That also we have a history. Does that justify bombing our people today?” […]

Highlighting the dire need of the current situation, Kannan says, “You can’t keep quiet on everything. At some point, if you disagree- it’s better to say it then rather than piling it up.”

Former IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan resigned from service in 2019, over ‘lack of freedom of expression’.

Source: “Democracy: Institutions and Individuals”: Special lecture for students of journalism by Kannan Gopinathan @ACJIndia #ACJLive
URL: http://acjnewsline.org/special-lecture-by-kannan-gopinathan-ex-ias-officer-and-activist-on-democracy-institutions-and-individuals/
Date visited: 8 November 2020

India’s democracy is taking a rankings battering these days. For a country which prides itself as the world’s largest democracy, this is troubling news.

So what’s going on?

Earlier this month, in its annual report on global political rights and liberties, US-based non-profit Freedom House downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy”.

Last week, Sweden-based V-Dem Institute was harsher in its latest report on democracy. It said India had become an “electoral autocracy”. And last month, India, described as a “flawed democracy”, slipped two places to 53rd position in the latest Democracy Index published by The Economist Intelligence Unit. […]

Populist leaders often polarise society and delegitimise the political opposition, often presenting them as enemies of the state or people. […]

Electoral autocracies, according to V-Dem, are now present in 87 states that are home to 68% of the global population. Liberal democracies, the group says, are diminishing, and are home to only 14% of the people. […]

Source: Report on democracy by Sweden-based V-Dem Institute as regards India’s diminishing of freedom of expression, the media, and civil society; quoted by Soutik Biswas in “‘Electoral autocracy’: The downgrading of India’s democracy” (BBC News, 16 March 2021)
URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56393944
Date visited: 17 March 2021

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