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India Struggles at 140th Rank in World Press Freedom Index

Reporters Sans Frontiers (Reporters Without Borders) has placed India at 140th rank out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. In 2018, India secured 138th rank in WPF index. There is a consistent drop since 2017 with a yearly loss of two ranks per year. In the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, India ranked 136th, 138th, and 140th, respectively. Norway has topped the index with a global score of 7.82.  India’s global score puts her under the ‘Difficult Situation (red)’ category as the score for this category ranges between 35.01 to 55 points; India’s score is 45.67.

The report cites: Violence against journalists – including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters, and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians – is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in India.

In 2018, out of 80 journalists killed globally in the line of duty, 6 were killed in India alone. The unfortunate list includes ‘Rising Kashmir’ Editor Shujat Bukhari, DD cameraperson Achyutanand Sahu, Chandan Tiwari of a Hindi daily in Jharkhand, Vijay Singh and Naveen Nischal of Hindustan (Bihar) and Sandeep Sharma of News World, Bhind (MP). In 2017, Gauri Lankesh (Lankesh Patrike), Sudip Dutta Bhaumik (Syandan Patrika/Vanguard TV), Shantanu Bhowmick (Din Raat) and Navin Gupta (Hindustan) were killed. 

The report further highlights, “these murders highlighted the many dangers Indian journalists face, especially those working for non-English-language media outlets in rural areas.”

TV journalists like Ravish Kumar (NDTV), Vinod Dua (HW News), Abhisar Sharma (HW News) and many others have been subjected to trolls, online abuse, and death threats for their dissenting voices and reporting.

Recently, Times Magazine listed Indian journalist Rana Ayyub as top 10 journalists facing ‘urgent threats’ for her work. Rana Ayyub consistently faces violent online abuse, death and rape threats, including pornographic videos with her morphed and photoshopped images. She has authored a book ‘Gujarat Files- an Anatomy of a cover-up’.

Neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka are better than India in terms of ranking. Pakistan is at 142nd rank in World Press Freedom Index.  Norway, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Denmark have zero abuse score.

What is the Methodology?

The index is compiled on the basis of a questionnaire by the experts. It says, “The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.” These indicators are compiled and calculated with the help of a formula.

RSF calculates two scores. The first, ScoA, is based on the first six of the seven indicators listed above. The second, ScoB, combines the first six indicators with the seventh (abuses). A country’s final score is the greater of these two scores. This method prevents an inappropriately low score (high ranking) being given to a country where few or no acts of violence against journalists take place because the provision of news and information is tightly controlled.

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