Today is World Press Freedom Day, it is a day when the world’s governments celebrate the basic principles of press freedom. The theme of 2018, as declared by the UN is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law.” In the recent context, the freedom of the press in India is questionable at best. We have dropped 5 ranks since 2016 from 133 to 138 of just 180 countries. In the last year alone our rank has gone down from 136 to 138. Since the beginning of this year, 3 journalists have been murdered. This fall is blamed largely on the BJP’s right-wing followers intimidating anyone that speaks out against their party.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister, under the pseudonym Chanakya, wrote critical essays about his leadership of the Congress Party. He was aware of temptations of power and emphasized the importance of keeping leaders in check. That is the duty of the press, but unless it has to freedom to express without fear, our very democracy is at stake.
Media houses and journalists, fearing for their lives, have started curtailing their own freedoms. Vice, a known international media house, restricted its stories when they came to India because they were worried about offending the people in power. An expose by Cobra Post revealed that many print and media groups were willing to spread the Hindutva agenda for a price.
Our right to free speech as citizens of the world’s largest democracy is curtailed as any anti-BJP sentiment is attacked mercilessly by their supporters. When the answer to every question asked of the government is labeled anti-national and seditious, can we still claim to have our freedom?