India's ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has fallen down to 150th position from last year's 142nd rank out of 180 countries, according to a report by a global media watchdog released on Tuesday.
The ranking of India's neighbours, except that of Nepal, have also slid down, with the index placing Pakistan at 157th position, Sri Lanka 146th, Bangladesh 162nd and Maynmar at 176th position, the report released by Reporters Without Borders said.
According to the RSF 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Nepal has climbed up by 30 points in the global ranking at 76th position. Last year, the Himalayan nation had been placed at 106th position, Pakistan at 145th, Sri Lanka 127th, Bangladesh 152nd and Myanmar at 140th position in the index.
This year, Norway (1st) Denmark (2nd), Sweden (3rd) Estonia (4th) and Finland (5th) grabbed the top positions, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list of the 180 countries and territories ranked by the Reporters Without Borders.
Russia was placed at 155th position, down from 150th last year, while China climbed up by two positions with the Reporters Without Borders placing it at 175th position. Last year, China was placed at 177th position.
"On the World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders and nine other human rights organisations ask Indian authorities to stop targeting journalists and online critics for their work," the international non-profit organisation said in a statement on its website.
"More specifically, they should stop prosecuting them under counterterrorism and sedition laws," it added.
The Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) said the Indian authorities should respect the right to freedom of expression and release any journalists detained on trumped-up or politically motivated charges for their critical reporting and stop targeting them and muzzling independent media.
"The authorities' targeting of journalists coupled with a broader crackdown on dissent has emboldened Hindu nationalists to threaten, harass and abuse journalists critical of the Indian government, both online and offline, with impunity," it said.
The authorities should also conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into allegations of threats and attacks targeting journalists and critics, including from government officials, the RSF said, adding, journalists should not have to risk their freedom and their lives to do their work.
About the global scenario, the RSF said the 20th World Press Freedom Index reveals a two-fold increase in "polarisation" amplified by information chaos, that is, media polarisation fuelling divisions within countries, as well as polarisation between countries at the international level.
Reacting to the RSF 2022 World Press Freedom Index, three Indian journalists bodies said in a joint statement, "While the job insecurities have grown so have the attacks on press freedoms seen an exponential rise. India does not fare too well in this regard, ranking 150 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by RSF.
"Journalists have been incarcerated under draconian laws for flimsy reasons and on some occasions faced threat to their lives as well from self-styled custodians of law in the social media space," the Indian Women's Press Corps, Press Club of India and Press Association added.
Noting that freedom of press is integral to the functioning of a vibrant democracy, they said the media has to come together "to reclaim its role towards realisation of this objective".
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