India’s ranking in the global Press Freedom Index 2023 has slipped to 161 out of 180 countries, which is down 11 places from 150th place in 2022. According to the latest ranking released by the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontièrs (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, India is clubbed with countries with some of the worst human rights and press freedom record such as, Bangladesh (163), Russia (164), Turkey (165) Saudi Arabia (170), Iran (177). China (179) and North Korea (180) round up the list of countries with least amount of media freedom. The 2023 edition of the report was released on May 3, which is marked as the World Press Freedom Day.
According to RSF, the ranking is based on five indicators that capture the essence of press freedom. These include parameters such as: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and safety of journalists.
RSF says that India’s sliding ranking on the index is due to the increasing control by a select group of corporate houses on the media. “The other phenomenon that dangerously restricts the free flow of information is the acquisition of media outlets by oligarchs who maintain close ties with political leaders. This is particularly the case in “hybrid” regimes such as India(161st), where all the mainstream media are now owned by wealthy businessmen close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” it says. It also says the rankings were impacted due to the harassment of journalists and their sources by online trolls affiliated to the ruling party. “Caught between these two forms of extreme pressure, many journalists are, in practice, forced to censor themselves,” it says.
In March last year, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, informed the Parliament that, the government rejected RSF’s rankings after India slipped to 150th place. “The World Press Freedom Index is published by a foreign Non-Government-Organization, ‘Reporters Without Borders’. The Government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings and does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organization 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, etc,” said Thakur.
The RSF defines press freedom as, “the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety.”
India’s rankings on social indicator is 143, on legislative indicator is 144, on economic indicator is 155, on political indicator is 169 and on security indicator is 172.