World Press Freedom Day: Journalism in Danger
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.
It is an opportunity to:
● Celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom.
● Assess the state of press freedom throughout the world.
● Defend the media from attacks on their independence.
● To pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
This year’s theme “ Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.
As India is today at 140 position from among 180 countries. This statistic is compiled by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF). The report claims that violence against journalists, including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters and retaliation by corrupt politicians and criminal outfits inhibits press freedom in India. Six Indian journalists were reportedly killed in 2018 owing to their work. RSF further highlights dangers faced by journalists especially those working for regional media outlets in rural areas of the country. RSF has recorded that attacks against journalists by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased in the run-up to general elections 2019.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) takes a snapshot of journalists in prison at the beginning of December each year.
This figure includes anyone working as a journalist, jailed for activities related to their work.
Countries with the highest numbers of imprisoned journalists in 2018 included
● Turkey 68
● China 47
● Egypt 25
● Saudi Arabia
● Eritrea 16 each.
The event in Kashmir is every time tragic, as to many reporters, it is not a surprise. “From the perspective of Kashmiri journalists, they’re under pretty significant pressure,” David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, says. “Fear of detention or being shut down seems to be hovering over a lot of the independent Kashmiri press.”
The feeling tjat is shared throughout India, which, in 2018, fell two places in a global press freedom ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders, to 138. (The country trails such autocracies as Myanmar, where two Reuters journalists were recently sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly breaching a law on state secrets while reporting on the military’s abuse of the Rohingya people.) Daniel Bastard, the head of the Asia-Pacific desk for Reporters Without Borders, says that the climate for journalists in India has worsened since 2014, when Modi took power. “Editorial independence is really decreasing,” Bastard tells CJR.
Recently, A letter written by CJP’s Asian program coordinator Steven Butler asked J&K governor to all legal proceedings against Sultan.
The committee to protect journalists (CPJ) wrote to the Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik and asked him to release Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan who is undergoing detention since August 27 last year.
A letter written by CJP’s Asian program coordinator Steven Butler asked governor to drop all legal proceedings against Sultan.
“Sultan has been falsely accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His name was included in a first information report filed after a gunfight in Batamaloo (Srinagar) on August 12, and he has been accused of having contact with and promoting militants. His editor and family have credibly disputed these claims and say his work was strictly that of a journalist gathering news. No chargesheet has been filed,” Butler said in the letter, which has also been e-mailed to home minister Rajnath Singh.
In July 2018, Sultan wrote a cover story for a magazine on militant BurhanWani, which included interviews with non-combatant members of Hizbul Mujahideen, said Butler.
“We understand that Jammu and Kashmir is facing a difficult situation, but CPJ would like to stress that interviewing or having sources who are critical of the government is within the scope of a journalists’ job and does not implicate them in a crime. Reporting on an important and newsworthy story such as the conflict in Kashmir is a public service, not a criminal act,” said Butler, in the letter.
Butler had said that journalists have long operated in a dangerous environment in Kashmir, and that they are extremely concerned about the climate for press freedom.
“In the past year, CPJ has also documented various attacks against journalists, and the questioning and detention of multiple reporters for their work. Freedom of the press is a vital tenet of democracy and a proud part of India’s history. We urge you to use the authority vested in you as governor of Jammu and Kashmir to help immediately ensure that Aasif Sultan is released and that the charges against him are dropped,” CPJ said recently in a letter .
While as, journalists in valley continue to face intimidation, harassment and threats to their life.
● Media for Democracy
● Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation
The 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day is jointly organized by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The main event will take place in Addis Ababa, on 1 – 3 May at the African Union Headquarters.