India slips in the global rankings for freedom of the press

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May 2, 2014

LONDON: India has slipped down the global rankings for freedom of the press, thanks to what The Annual Index of Media Freedom called "increased interference in content by media owners in the run-up to the 2014 elections".

Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade with India ranked 78th and belonging to countries with "partially free media".

May 2, 2014

LONDON: India has slipped down the global rankings for freedom of the press, thanks to what The Annual Index of Media Freedom called "increased interference in content by media owners in the run-up to the 2014 elections".

Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade with India ranked 78th and belonging to countries with "partially free media".

India's press freedom score declined by a point to 39 "reflecting an increased interference in content by media owners in the run-up to the 2014 elections".

The Index said the interference also saw "dismissal of key editorial staff in several instances" just before the elections started.

Of the 197 countries assessed during 2013, around 63 (32%) were rated free, with Sweden having the world's most independent press. Each country received a numerical score from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free) on the basis of combined scores from three subcategories: the legal environment, political environment and the economic environment. For each category, a lower number of points is allotted for a more free situation, while a higher number of points is allotted for a less free environment.

India's score stood at 39. In comparison, China's score stood at 84, Pakistan 64 and Sri Lanka 76.

The global decline of press freedom was driven in part by major regression in several Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Libya, and Jordan; marked setbacks in Turkey, Ukraine, and a number of countries in East Africa; and deterioration in the relatively open media environment of the United States.

The share of the world's population with media rated "Free" remains at just 14%, or only one in seven people. Far larger shares live in "Not Free" (44%) or "Partly Free" (42%) media environments.

"We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments' efforts to control the message and punish the messenger," said Karin Karlekar, project director of the report. "In every region of the world last year, we found both governments and private actors attacking reporters, blocking their physical access to newsworthy events, censoring content, and ordering politically motivated firings of journalists".

"In 2013 we saw more cases of states targeting foreign reporters and media outlets," Karlekar added. "Russian and Chinese authorities declined to renew or threatened to withhold visas for prominent foreign correspondents, but the new Egyptian government went a step further by detaining a number of Al-Jazeera staff on charges of supporting terrorism."

The world's eight worst-rated countries remain Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Only 5% of the Asia Pacific region's population had access to free media in 2013. China, rated Not Free, continued to crack down on online speech, particularly on microblogs, and also ramped up pressure on foreign journalists. Press freedom deteriorated in Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and several Pacific Island states, including Nauru, which was downgraded to Partly Free.


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