Podcast: Is the press free in India?
On the Global Press Freedom Index, India ranks 142 out of 180 countries. To make sense of why a country that prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy fares so abysmally on press freedom, it’s imperative to locate and speak about the different pressures that journalists are under.
To this end, Roli Pulse, the digital arm of Roli Books, in association with Newslaundry, organised a webinar with Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of the Wire; Naresh Fernandes, editor of Scroll; Dhanya Rajendran, chief editor of the News Minute; and Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder of Newslaundry.
They discuss the pressures the Indian media faced in the past and how they are different from what it must deal with today. Intimidation, they agree, has become “more systematic” now, and this can only be countered by institutionally empowering journalists.
They also talk about how institutions such as the judiciary have responded to the intimation of the media, recognise the urgent need to have a united press, and acknowledge that press associations currently are inaccessible to most journalists.
Varadarajan shares his experiences dealing with the pressure put by former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on the Hindu when he was the daily’s editor. Fernandes examines what it means to be a journalist today when even a Facebook post critical of the establishment attracts heat and even institutional interference. Rajendran expresses her concern about the sphere of hate that has been created in the society and that, in turn, has led to public mistrust of journalists who are critical of majoritarianism.
They also discuss the line that we need to draw under "hate speech", and whether criminalisation is the answer to the problems we face because of it.
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