India is one of the five deadliest countries for media workers across the world, according to a recent report by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF). As per the report, 50 journalists were killed worldwide during 2020 because of their work. The five countries topping the list for being the most dangerous for journalists according to RSF are Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.
RSF tallied 50 cases of journalists being killed in connection with their work from January 1 to December 15, 2020, a number similar to 2019, when 53 journalists were killed. The number did not see any significant change, although fewer journalists have been in the field this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also pointed out that of all the journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020, 84% were knowingly targeted and deliberately murdered, as compared to 63% in 2019. Some were murdered in a particularly barbaric manner.
The most dangerous stories, the ones that lead to journalists being attacked or killed are investigations into cases of local corruption or misuse of public funds (10 journalists killed in 2020) or investigations into the activities of organised crime (four killed). In a new development in 2020, the report pointed out, seven journalists were killed while covering protests.
“The world’s violence continues to be visited upon journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe
Deloire said in a media release, adding that, “Some may think that journalists are just the victims of the risks of their profession, but journalists are increasingly targeted when they investigate or cover sensitive subjects. What is being attacked is the right to be informed, which is everyone’s right.”
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More journalists were killed in countries considered to be “at peace”. In 2016, 58% of media fatalities took place in war zones. In 2020, only 32% of the fatalities were in war-torn countries such as Syria or Yemen or in countries with low or medium-intensity conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq. “In other words, 68% of the fatalities are in countries “at peace”, above all Mexico (with eight journalists killed), India (four), the Philippines (three) and Honduras (three),” the report said.
RSF reported that 387 journalists are currently detained in connection with their work. “This is virtually the same as a year ago and means the number of journalists detained worldwide is still at a historically high level,” the report said. The year 2020 has also seen a 35% increase in the number of women journalists arbitrarily detained, and a four-fold increase in arrests of journalists during the first three months of COVID-19 spread around the world. Fourteen journalists who were arrested in connection with their coverage of the pandemic are still being held.
In May 2020, the RSF released the Press Freedom Index, in which India had slipped to the 142nd position among 180 countries. The report had said, “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. Ever since the general elections in the spring of 2019, won overwhelmingly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pressure on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line has increased.”
It had added, “India’s score in this year’s World Press Freedom Index is heavily affected by the situation in Kashmir where, after rescinding the state’s autonomy, the federal government shut down fixed line and mobile internet connections completely for several months, making it virtually impossible for journalists to cover what was happening in what has become a vast open prison.”
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