Journalists under attack

India is increasingly becoming a less free and dangerous environment for journalists.

Published : May 28, 2014 12:30 IST

Freedom of press

Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade, according to “Freedom of the Press 2014”, a survey brought out by Freedom House, a United States-based non-governmental organisation. The decline, it says, was driven in part by major regression in several countries in the West Asian region, including Egypt, Libya, and Jordan; marked setbacks in Turkey, Ukraine, and a number of countries in eastern Africa; and a deterioration in the relatively open media environment of the U.S.

The share of the world’s population with media rated “Free” remains at just 14 per cent, or only one in seven persons. Far larger shares live in “Not Free” (44 per cent) or “Partly Free” (42 per cent) media environments.

Of the 197 countries and territories assessed during 2013, a total of 63 (32 per cent) were rated Free, 68 (35 per cent) were rated Partly Free, and 66 (33 per cent) were rated Not Free. This marks a shift in the balance towards the Not Free category compared with the edition of 2012, which featured 63 Free, 70 Partly Free, and 64 Not Free countries and territories.

India also saw a decline in press freedom in 2013 as reflected in increased interference by media owners in editorial decision-making and dismissal of key editorial staff in several instances.

Under peril

Also published in the U.S., by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit organisation, is the “2014 Impunity Index”. It compiles the list of countries where journalists’ murders are most likely to go unpunished,

The key findings from the Impunity Index report are:

* 96 per cent of victims were local reporters with the majority covering politics, corruption and war.

* New murders took place in 2013 in eight of the countries that appear repeatedly on the annual ranking.

* In at least four out of every 10 journalists’ murders, victims reported receiving threats before they were killed.

* Almost a third of murdered journalists were either taken captive or tortured before being killed.

* Political groups, including armed factions, are the suspected perpetrators in more than 40 per cent of murder cases and government and military officials are considered as leading suspects in 26 per cent of cases

India ranks 13th in the list of countries where journalists are slain and killers go free. The report says the world’s largest democracy’s repeated failure to advance justice in the killings of its journalists has kept it on CPJ’s Index since the survey started in 2008. At least seven journalists, all working for local print publications and reporting on corruption, politics, or crime, have been slain in connection to their work in the last decade, with state responses rarely going beyond a perfunctory police investigation. Two journalists were murdered with impunity in 2013. One of them was Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot by two gunmen on motorcycles as he took an early morning walk in August. Dabholkar had received threats in the days before his murder and often published articles on sensitive issues, including student suicides, farmer suicides, slums, and the Maoist movement.


The Freedom of the Press study was conducted by examining 23 methodology questions and 132 indicators, which looked at legal, political and economic factors affecting the press in 197 countries. The higher the number of points allotted, the less free the press were considered to be.

Besides the overall safety of journalists to carry out their work, factors such as state interference and media ownership were also taken into account.

A country’s final score (from 0 to 100) is based on the total of the scores allotted for each question: A score of 0 to 30 places the country in the Free press group; 31 to 60 in the Partly Free press group; and 61 to 100 in the Not Free press group.

CPJ’s Impunity Index calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population. For this index, CPJ examined journalist murders that occurred between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2013. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on this index.

The CPJ defines murder as a deliberate attack against a specific journalist in relation to the victim's work. Murders make up more than 70 per cent of work-related deaths among journalists, according to CPJ research. This index does not include cases of journalists killed in combat or while carrying out dangerous assignments such as coverage of street protests.

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