Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Govt. disagrees with India’s rank in World Press Freedom Index


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: World Press Freedom Index

Mains level: Freedom of press in India

The Centre has shown its disagreement with the conclusions drawn by Reporters Without Borders about press freedom in India for various reasons.

World Press Freedom Index

  • The PFI is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders since 2002.
  • It is based upon the organization’s own assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year.
  • It intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.
  • It is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism in the countries it assesses, nor does it look at human rights violations in general.

India’s ranking

  • India is ranked at 142 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2021.
  • In the South Asian neighborhood, Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, Myanmar (before the coup) at 140, Pakistan at 145 and Bangladesh at 152.
  • China is ranked 177, and is only above North Korea at 179 and Turkmenistan at 178.

What the report said about India

  • Targeting women: It has been highlighted that the “campaigns are particularly violent when the targets are women”.
  • Criminal prosecutions: Often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities.
  • Draconian laws: It termed various Indian laws such as – laws on ‘sedition,’ ‘state secrets’ and ‘national security’, draconian.
  • Curb on freedom of expression: The report has also highlighted the throttling of freedom of expression on social media.
  • Censorship on social media: It specifically mentioned that in India the “arbitrary nature of Twitter’s algorithms also resulted in brutal censorship”

Reservations held by India

  • India along with many nations has reportedly disgusted the outcomes of this report. It stated that media in India enjoy absolute freedom.
  • The government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings and does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organization for various reasons:
  1. Non-transparent methodology
  2. Very low sample size
  3. Little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy
  4. Adoption of a methodology that is questionable and non-transparent
  5. Lack of clear definition of press freedom, among others

Why is the report biased?

  • The report is a subjective measure computed through the prism of western liberals.
  • It tends to default to a homogenous view of mass media which then facilitates comparison between countries.
  • There are no questions about media ownership or about their economic concentration in private hands.


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