Press freedom undermined on several fronts in India12 May, 2017
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by the recent incidents undermining press freedom in various states of India. The IFJ urges the governments at the centre and states to ensure a safe environment for independent journalism.
On May 9, the Supreme Court of India issued an order banning news media from publishing statements by Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan, who accused other senior judges of corruption. A bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar while sentencing Justice Karnan to six months in prison on charges of contempt of court ordered that “since the incident of contempt includes public statements and publication of orders made by the contemnor, which were highlighted by the electronic and print media, we are of the view, that no further statements made by him should be published hereafter.”
The Indian Express called the ban ‘most unexpected and disappointing’. The Times of India called it an ‘unhappy situation’ and its editorial stated: “Free speech is often challenged in India but the apex court has stood by the principle of freedom of expression, a critical freedom in any democracy, in the past. But the gag order on media is tantamount to prior restraint. It is an unhappy situation when the judiciary becomes a vehicle to restrain expression.”
In another incident, four unidentified people beat up Nallamilli Rama Reddy, a Telugu TV channel reporter, at Pittala Vemavaram village in Andra Pradesh on May 3. Reddy, who had recently filed two stories on illegal sand mining, was seriously injured and taken to hospital. The attackers knocked at his door aroundmidnight, asked him why he had filed the stories and beat him up when he called the police and tried to take pictures of them.
On May 1, New Delhi police officers assaulted journalist Meghnad Bose of The Quint, while he was doing a Facebook live video from Jamie Milia Islamia University where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was visiting. Bose was held by policemen and slapped multiple times, and detained inside the police van for half-an-hour before being driven to the police station.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is concerned by the growing number of incidents that undermine the press freedom in India, from suppressing the media from publishing quotes to direct attacks on journalists. India should ensure that there is a conducive and safe environment for journalists and media to operate independently.”