Context:

In its 2020 Human Rights Report, the U.S. State Department said the harassment and detention of journalists critical of the (Indian) government in their reporting and on social media, has continued, although the government generally respected the freedom of expression.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (International reports and policies affecting India’s interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Human Rights report by the U.S.
  2. Importance of Free Media
  3. Threats to Freedom of Press

About the Human Rights report by the U.S.

  • The 2020 Human Rights Report is one of the reports submitted each year to the U.S. Congress containing a country-wise discussion of the state of human rights.
  • The report says that the Indian government generally respected this right, although there were several instances in which the government, or actors considered close to the government, allegedly pressured or harassed media outlets critical of the government, including through online trolling.
  • The document also cites reports by journalists and NGOs that local and national level government officials were, “involved in silencing or intimidating critical media outlets through physical harassment and attacks, pressuring owners, targeting sponsors, encouraging frivolous lawsuits, and in some areas blocking communication services.”
  • The government’s user data requests in 2019 saw a 30+% increase from 2018 from Facebook, and 65+% increase from Google and Twitter.

Importance of Free Media

  • Free Media promotes open discussion of ideas that allows individuals to fully participate in political life, making informed decisions and strengthening society as a result — especially in a large democracy such as India.
  • A free exchange of ideas, free exchange of information and knowledge, debating and expression of different viewpoints is important for smooth functioning of democracy.
  • As the free media by virtue of being the voice of masses, empowers them with the right to express opinions, it is critical in a democracy.
  • With Free Media, people will be able to exercise their rights as questioning decisions of government. Such an environment can be created only when freedom of press is achieved.
  • Hence, Media can be rightly considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, the other three being legislature, executive and judiciary.

Threats to Freedom of Press

  • The hostility towards the media which is openly encouraged by political leaders poses a great threat to democracy.
  • Government’s pressure in the name of regulations, bombardment of fake news and over influence of social media is dangerous for the occupation. Corruption-paid news, advertorials and fake news are threats to free and unbiased media.
  • Security of journalists is the biggest issue, killings and assaults on the Journalists covering sensitive issues are very common.
  • Hate speech targeting journalists shared and amplified on social networks are targeted against journalists using social media.
  • Corporate and political power has overwhelmed large sections of the media, both print and visual, which lead to vested interests and destroy freedom.

-Source: The Hindu

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