India | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

India

India

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

38

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

17

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

Although journalists face a number of threats and constraints, Indian media continue to provide diverse and robust coverage and are the freest in South Asia. The constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, and while there are some legal limitations, these rights are generally upheld. In recent years, authorities have used the Official Secrets Act to censor security-related articles or prosecute members of the press, but no cases were reported during 2004. State and national governments have also on occasion used other security laws, contempt of court charges, and criminal defamation legislation to curb the media and other critical voices. The Press Council of India, an independent body comprising journalists, publishers, and politicians, serves as a self-regulatory mechanism for the print press through its investigations of complaints of misconduct or irresponsible reporting.

Intimidation of journalists by a variety of actors continues. The International Federation of Journalists reported that Dilip Mohapatra, an editor at the Oriya-language Aji Kagaj, was murdered in November, possibly as a result of his investigative reports into local mafia activities. The Bombay-based daily Mahanagar was targeted several times during the course of the summer by both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists; activists connected with the Bharatiya Janata Party attacked the paper's premises in June, damaging office equipment and assaulting staff; and an editor of the paper was stabbed in August, possibly as a result of his writings on Muslim divorce customs. Reporters in several states face pressure from separatist militant groups or from local or state authorities. In addition, police occasionally beat, detain, or otherwise harass journalists as they attempt to cover the news. Conditions are particularly difficult in the insurgency-racked state of Jammu and Kashmir, where militants routinely issue death threats against media personnel. Other forms of coercion have also been employed against the Kashmiri media; in 2003, Reporters sans frontieres criticized a decision by the state government to stop placing official advertisements in the independent newspaper Kashmir Observer, thus depriving it of an important source of revenue. Faced with such pressures, some journalists practice self-censorship.

Most print media, particularly the national and English-language press, are privately owned, provide diverse coverage, and frequently criticize the government. The broadcast media are predominantly in private hands, but the state retains a monopoly on AM radio broadcasting, and private FM radio stations are not allowed to broadcast news content. Doordarshan, the state-controlled television station, has been accused of manipulating the news to favor the government. In addition, a number of private satellite TV channels provide slanted coverage that reflects the political affiliation of their owners, according to the U.S. State Department, and journalists at some newspaper outlets are pressured by management to "doctor" their reports. Internet access is unrestricted, although some states have proposed legislation that would require the registration of customers at Internet cafes. Potentially inflammatory books and films are occasionally banned or censored by the national or state governments