Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Freedom in the World Report, 2021


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of speech

Mains level : Free speech related issues

Freedom in the World 2020: A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy

US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House has accused the present government of driving India toward authoritarianism with a lockdown scapegoating of minorities and a crackdown on critics, and downgraded India’s status from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’, in its annual report.

Freedom in the World Report

  • It is Freedom House’s flagship annual report, assessing the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world.
  • It is composed of numerical ratings and supporting descriptive texts for 195 countries and 15 territories.
  • The report has been published since 1973, allowing Freedom House to track global trends in freedom over more than 40 years.
  • Freedom House, which is largely funded through U.S. government grants, has been tracking the course of democracy since 1941.

What did the report say?

Political and civil rights

  • India’s freedom score, calculated using indicators of political rights and civil liberties, dropped four points to 67 this year, pulling the country down into the ‘Partly Free’ category.
  • India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all.

Reference to Kashmir

  • In a year when social media censorship has been hotly seated, while the government shut down Internet connectivity in Kashmir as well as on Delhi’s borders, India’s Internet freedom score dropped to just 51.

Crackdown on protesters

  • Last year, the government intensified its crackdown on protesters opposed to a discriminatory citizenship law and arrested dozens of journalists who aired criticism of the official pandemic response.

Judicial Independence

  • It noted that judicial independence had also come under strain.
  • It pointed to the case of a Delhi HC judge who was transferred immediately after reprimanding the police for taking no action during riots in the capital that leftover 50 people dead.

Religious freedom

  • Minorities were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs.
  • Uttar Pradesh’s law prohibiting forced religious conversion through interfaith marriage was also listed as a concern.

Rising Authoritarianism

  • Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, the government is tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism, the report stated.

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