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What is World Freedom Index and why Indian govt keeps rejecting its report?

India's position in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index dropped to 150 out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders

Anurag Thakur, (Photo: Twitter)

Anurag Thakur, (Photo: Twitter)

Sanika Sarode New Delhi

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Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha that the government disagrees with the results of the World Press Freedom Index and the conclusions reached by Reporters Without Borders, the group that compiles the rankings. He cited factors like a very small sample size, a lack of emphasis on democratic principles, and dubious and opaque methodology for the disagreement.

India's position in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index dropped to 150 out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders (RFS). The top three countries with the highest press freedom are Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, while North Korea is at the bottom. The report also reveals that Pakistan is ranked at 157 while Sri Lanka is at 146.

What is Reporters Without Borders?

Reporters Without Borders is an international non-profit organisation founded in 1985 in Montpellier by four journalists to defend and promote freedom of information. RSF has consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF), and has been recognised as a public interest organisation in France since 1995.

How World Press Freedom Index works

Since 2002, RSF has published The World Press Freedom Index, in which countries are ranked based on a score ranging from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highest possible level of press freedom and 0 representing the worst. The Index ranks 180 countries and regions based on the level of freedom enjoyed by journalists.

It is a glimpse of the state of media freedom in each country and region, based on an assessment of pluralism, media independence, the quality of the legislative framework, and the safety of journalists. However, it is not a measure of the quality of journalism in each country or region.

The scoring consists of two parts: a quantitative component that calculates abuses against journalists and media outlets, and a qualitative component based on responses to an RSF questionnaire from press freedom specialists (journalists, researchers, and human rights defenders).

83 questions evaluate each country's or territory's score using five contextual indicators. These indicators include political context, legal framework, economic context, socio-cultural context, and safety.

These questions assess the level of support and respect for media autonomy in the face of political pressure from the government or other political actors, and the extent to which journalists and the media are free to work without fear of censorship or legal repercussions. The questions also assess social constraints resulting from press attacks, as well as cultural constraints, such as pressure on journalists to not question certain bastions of power or influence or not to cover certain issues. This also include assessments about journalists' safety, such as bodily harm, doxing (the malicious publication of personal information), degrading or hateful speech, and so on.

India’s position on World Press Freedom Index

India's score in the 2022 Index has dropped by eight points to 41, hence dropping to 150 from 142 out of 180 countries. The report suggests that nationalist or increasingly authoritarian governments in supposedly democratic nations are exerting pressure on the media, including in India

India’s position has been consistently falling in the index since 2016 when it was ranked 133.

The report identifies India as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, who face a range of physical threats, including police violence, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals from criminal groups or corrupt officials, female journalists being particularly vulnerable, with coordinated campaigns of hatred directed at them on social media.

While freedom of the press is not explicitly guaranteed by Indian law, it is understood to be protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression for all citizens.

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First Published: Mar 27 2023 | 4:32 PM IST

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