India calls report on press freedom ‘ambiguous’

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New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) India on Wednesday described as “ambiguous” the “sources” of a report from international NGO Reporters Without Borders that ranks India 136th in global media freedom index, three points down from last year.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir also told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the report’s sampling was “random”.

The Paris-based body ranked 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

“The Press Council of India and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have taken note of the report of Reporters Without Borders and found out that (its) sources in India are ambiguous and the sampling is quite random in nature which does not portray a proper and comprehensive picture of freedom of the press in India,” Ahir said.

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The report blamed the rise of Hindu nationalism for the three notch drop in India’s ranking.

“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of anti-national thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media,” the report said.

It said that journalists were “increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals”.

It said it was increasingly difficult for journalists to report from sensitive zones, such as Kashmir, where reporters were targets of violence from both sides of the conflict.

On providing compensation to journalists who are victims of violence, the minister said the employers were “competent to give compensation to their employees”.

Ahir said the responsibility to maintain law and order and protect life and property of citizens “including journalists” rested primarily with state governments.

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