India | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

India

India

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

37

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

16

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

India's media continue to be vigorous and are by far the freest in South Asia, although journalists face a number of constraints. The constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, and although there are some legal limitations, these rights are generally upheld. In recent years, the government has occasionally used its power under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to censor security-related articles or prosecute members of the press, but no cases were reported during 2005. 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. In May, the International Federation of Journalists welcomed the passing of a Right to Information Bill and called for the scrapping of the OSA. The Press Council of India, an independent body composed of 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; on a number of occasions during the year, reporters were arrested and detained under false charges or were subject to other threats. In addition, police occasionally beat, detain, or otherwise harass journalists as they attempt to cover the news. Reporters in several states face pressure from separatist militant groups or from local or state-level authorities. Local journalists in Shillong protested in July over several instances of intimidation by police after the Meghalaya Guardian published a story alleging that security forces had burned down tribal houses. Conditions are particularly difficult in the insurgency-racked state of Jammu and Kashmir, where the fact that militants routinely issue death threats against local media personnel has led to significant levels of self-censorship. Pressure to self-censor has also been reported at smaller media outlets that rely on state government advertising for the majority of their revenue. In July, eight journalists were injured in Srinagar during a grenade attack by Islamist militants and subsequent crossfire by security forces.

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, and some private satellite TV channels also provide slanted coverage that reflects the political affiliation of their owners, according to the U.S. State Department. Internet access is unrestricted, although some states have proposed legislation that would require the registration of customers at internet cafes.