May 3 is celebrated as World Press Freedom Day every year. A day to celebrate the freedom of the press, to ensure that it works without any external influence or pressure. According to the official website of UNESCO the World Press Freedom Day “Celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.” To indicate how this freedom is actually implemented in various nations, countries are ranked on the World Press Freedom Index.
As far as the case of India is concerned, it is ranked on the 136th spot on 2017 index, which is three spots below what it was ranked in the previous year. Making matters worse a study by HOOT has revealed that over 54 attacks have taken place on journalists in the country in last 16 months and as many as 25 cases of threatening journalists also took place. Even though 7 journalists were killed, reasonable evidence of their writing being the motive for murder is available in only one case.
During the question hour session of Lok Sabha last year, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir said 142 attacks on journalists took place between 2014 and 2015. Even though the government hasn’t revealed the official figures, according to the data compiled by Hoot, out of 114 attacks that took place on journalists in 2014, only 32 people were arrested. The media is consistently under fire for reporting and taking on high profile personalities. The current year is no exception as it started on a sad note. Three days into 2017, a journalist was killed in Bihar by a gang.
The study revealed that while six journalists lost their lives in 2016, the police investigation found professional reasons in only three cases. There is a clear pattern here: reporting is becoming dangerous, the truth is hard to find and the opinions are limited to newsrooms. Social media trolling is yet another example of what the journalists have to go through in this age of new media. So, while we celebrate the World Press Freedom Day, let us keep in mind that the fourth pillar of democracy is under attack and we all know what happens when it breaks!
(Sources: The Hoot, rsf.org, UNESCO)