Freedom House, a non-government watchdog, on 2 November 2015 released the Freedom of the Press 2016 report. The report was released with theme, The Battle for the Dominant Message.
As per the annual report, press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015. It happened because the political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power.
With respect to India, the report found that freedom to the press is partly free with a total score of 41 on a 0 to 100 scale with 0 representing the best level of freedom on the net progress and 100 the worst.
• The report says, only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a free press, which means places where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.This means one in seven people live in countries where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
• 41 percent of the world’s population has a Partly Free press.
• 46 percent live in Not Free media environments.
• Among the countries that suffered the largest declines in 2015 were Bangladesh, Turkey, Burundi, France, Serbia, Yemen, Egypt, Macedonia, and Zimbabwe.
• The report says that at present about 3.4 billion people live in a country that was rated under the Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016.
The report also highlights the six dangerous topics for journalists where they risk themselves and their lives for coverage. These topics are corruption, organised crime, environment and land development, religion, disputed sovereignty and lèse-majesté (the crime of violating majesty) and beyond.
Highlights in context of India
• In terms of stories related to environment and land development, the report highlighted the story of two Indian journalists, namely Sandeep Kothari and Jagendra Singh, who were killed. Kothari who covered illegal mining and land grabs was killed in June 2015 and his body was found burned and heavily bruised. Jagendra Singh also died from burns allegedly inflicted by local police.
• In category of states and vigilantes muzzle controversial speech, the report highlights story of a journalist who was burned to death by police after he accused an Uttar Pradesh government minister of corruption. In the same category it also talks about banning of a documentary film on the contentious problem of violence against women in the country, and temporary suspension of broadcasts of Al-Jazeera English because the station showed a map that did not match the government’s position on Kashmir.
• It says that journalists have faced a wave of threats and physical attacks in recent months.