The climate for free speech in India

IN Special Reports | 20/01/2018
The Hoot’s annual report attempts a state-wise overview of the climate for media freedom and free speech.
Excerpted from THE INDIA FREEDOM REPORT for 2017.

 

 

The climate for journalism in India grew steadily adverse in 2017. A host of perpetrators made reporters and photographers, even editors, fair game as there were murders, attacks,  threats, and cases filed against them for defamation, sedition, and internet-related offences. 

It was a year in which two journalists were shot at point blank range and killed, and one was hacked to death as police stood by and did not stop the mob.

The following statistics have been compiled from  The Hoot’s Free Speech Hub monitoring:

 

  • 3 killings of journalists which can be clearly linked to their journalism
  • 46  attacks
  • 27 cases of police action including detentions, arrests and cases filed.
  • 12 cases of threats

 

These are conservative estimates based on reporting in the English press.

The major perpetrators as the data in this report shows tend to be the police and politicians and political workers, followed by right wing activists and other non-state actors   Law makers became law breakers as members of parliament and legislatures figured among the perpetrators of attacks or threats.  These cases included a minister from UP who threatened to set a journalist on fire, and an MLA from Chirala  in Andhra Pradesh and his brother accused of being behind a brutal attack on a magazine journalist.  If Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav threatened to punch a Republic TV reporter in the face, his son Tejaswini’s guards assaulted reporters and photographers  when they arrived at his house to get his reaction to an FIR being lodged against him on corruption charges.

 

THE CLIMATE FOR FREE SPEECH--A STATE-WISE OVERVIEW

 

Sikkim on India’s northeastern border is the most trouble-free state in the country, measured by the yardstick of free speech and media freedom.  By the same yardstick, Kashmir on the north-western border is the most un-free. In 2017, there was nothing untoward to report in Sikkim while Kashmir notched up the worst record in India  for a population chronically affected by internet shutdowns and for journalists working in difficult, conflict-ridden conditions which included attacks, police actions and threats.

Based on its own monitoring derived from reported instances in the English press and other updated databases online, The Hoot presents a state-wise snapshot which should be taken as a conservative estimate of recorded incidents which affected free speech and media freedom.  Government data for 2017 on cases recorded at police stations across the country will become available from the National Crime Research Bureau only towards the end of 2018.

 

 

States with the worst free speech and media freedom record in 2017

State

Defam-ation

Sedi-tion

Inter

net

Shut-

Down

Social

Media

related

Arts Censor

ship

Censorship

Govt  Action

Thre-ats/

Attacks

Deaths

 

Police

Action

Legis

lative

Action

Hate

Speech

Total

J & K

1

1

40

0

4

6

0

3

1

1

57

Karnataka

6

4

0

16

0

0

1

1

1

2

31

Maharashtra

19

0

1

1

1

5

0

1

0

0

28

Delhi

11

3

0

1

3

8

0

1

0

0

27

Haryana

0

6

8

0

0

5

2

1

0

0

22

WestBengal

4

0

2

7

4

3

0

0

0

2

22

Chhattisgarh

0

0

0

4

0

2

0

14

0

1

21

Rajasthan

0

1

11

1

5

1

0

0

0

1

20

UP

2

5

2

2

1

5

2

1

0

0

20

Tamil Nadu

7

3

0

1

0

5

0

1

0

1

18

Andhra/ Telangana

1

0

1

4

0

8

0

2

0

2

18

Kerala

1

1

0

1

1

5

0

1

0

2

12

Bihar

0

1

3

1

0

5

1

0

0

0

11

Gujarat

2

2

1

0

1

1

0

1

0

1

9

Madhya Pradesh

2

2

1

2

1

1

1

0

0

0

10

Assam

1

2

0

1

0

2

0

0

0

2

8

Odisha

1

0

2

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

5

Punjab

1

3

1

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

7

Tripura

1

0

2

0

1

1

2

0

0

0

7

Goa

1

0

0

1

3

0

0

0

0

0

5

Jharkhand

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

0

3

Arunachal Pradesh

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

2

Himachal Pradesh

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

Nagaland

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

Uttarakhand

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

2

Manipur

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

Megha

Laya

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

Mizoram

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Sikkim

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

 63

35

77

43

28

72

11

28

2

16

375

 

*Actions of Central Agencies and media houses  have been excluded from state data. These appear under subject heads.

** For raw data on which these numbers are based see links at the end of the report.

Kashmir had 40 internet shutdowns against 77 recorded for the entire country.

Delhi recorded a number of cases of defamation and instances of censorship and self-censorship.  Maharashtra had the highest incidence of defamation and  Andhra Pradesh the largest number of attacks on and threats to journalists.

Karnataka had the highest number of  state actions for internet and social media-related incidents.  In Tamil Nadu the number of defamation cases have come down sharply following Jayalalitha’s demise in December 2016.

For details please see sections below on each of these categories.

Censorship was imposed by a variety of actors including the courts which ordered gags on reporting. And the profession witnessed growing self-censorship.

Censorship by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and  arts censorship by government-appointed bodies such as the Central Board of Film Certification are not accounted for in the statistics  for the states but separately in the Arts Censorship section.

 

Read the complete report here :

http://thehoot.org/public/uploads/filemanager/media/THE-INDIA-FREEDOM-REPORT-.pdf

 

The Hoot is the only not-for-profit initiative in India which does independent media monitoring. Your support is vital for this website. Click here to make a contribution.
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