India, the largest democracy in the world, slipped again this year by two ranks to 138th in World Press Freedom Index, just one rank ahead of Pakistan which stands at a consistent 139.
In the 180-strong list of nations, Norway and North Korea retained their positions as number 1 and number 180 respectively, while India continue to slip farther down since 2016 when it stood at 133. India's neighbour Pakistan remained at a consistent 139 from 2017.
In its annual index report, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) rank 180 countries with respect to freedom accorded to journalists. The index map this year shows India in a dim light. The report cites "self-censorship in the mainstream media" and "online smear campaigns" against journalists by the "most radical nationalists" as reasons behind its downfall.
India stood at 136 in 2017, down from 133 in 2016. A report by the US' trump administration said media outlets critical of the government in India were allegedly pressured or harassed in 2017.
"The Constitution (of India) provides for freedom of speech and expression, but it does not explicitly mention freedom of the press. The government (of India) generally respected these rights, although there were instances in which the government allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government," US State Department said in its annual Human Rights Report for the year 2017.
The 2018 report by the RWB mentions threat of sedition and hyper hindu nationalism under the ruling disposition as reason behind the country's performance in press freedom index.
"Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship," the report says.
The report also takes into account freedom of reporters covering a sensitive region like Kashmir.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Asia Pacific, last year had listed the challenges of living and reporting in a conflict zone like, balancing pressures from all sides, government, security forces, militants and the Kashmiri public and precarious working conditions, like, low wages, no job security, no medical, life or risk insurance as main issues confronted by journalists in the valley.
It said the media has suffered in the form of killings, direct attacks, intimidation, threats, and pressures from various quarters. “Twenty-one journalists have been killed due to the conflict – either directly targeted or caught in the cross-fire”, it says.