Journalists in India have been facing increasing attacks from political parties and their leaders, police, mobs resisting media coverage, vigilant groups and in many instances the armed opposition groups too.
In a written reply to Unstarred Question No. 1191 on the figures of journalists killed or attacked in last three years and whether any compensation was given to the family of the journalist who was killed, the Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir stated in the Lok Sabha on 26th July 2017 that 142 cases (114 in 2014 and 28 in 2015) were registered across the country in connection with attacks on journalists. He also stated that 73 persons were arrested during 2014 and 2015 in connection with attacks on media persons.
In 2014, the majority of the cases of attacks on journalists were reported from Uttar Pradesh (63 cases) and Bihar (22 cases), but only four were arrested in Uttar Pradesh while none was arrested in Bihar. Ten persons were arrested in seven cases in Madhya Pradesh; one person was arrested, and five cases were registered in Maharashtra; one person was arrested and four cases were registered in Andhra Pradesh; none was arrested although three cases each were registered in Gujarat and Jharkhand; two persons were arrested in two cases registered in Tripura; none was arrested although two cases were registered in Assam; two persons were arrested in one case registered in Meghalaya; and none was arrested in Odisha and Uttarakhand although one case each was registered in both state.
In 2015, 19 cases were registered, and 32 persons were arrested in Madhya Pradesh, five cases were registered but none was arrested in Rajasthan, one case each was registered in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh but none was arrested.
In its World Press Freedom Index, 2017, the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Border stated, “With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media. Journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals. Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship.” It further added that coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult, and there are no protective mechanisms and journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent.
About India’s low ranking (136th) in Reporters Without Border’s ‘World Press Freedom Index, 2017’ the Minister stated that the Press Council of India in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has “found out that the sources of RWB in India are ambiguous, and the sampling is quite random in nature which does not portray a proper and comprehensive picture of freedom of the press in India.”