Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
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 speech and of expression, 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 to censor security-related articles or prosecute members of the press, but no cases were reported during 2006. 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. A Right to Information Law was passed in May 2005. 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. In June, the International Federation of Journalists expressed concern regarding a proposed broadcasting services regulation bill that would give the government greater power over the media, restrict media cross-ownership, and introduce greater content regulation for news channels.
Intimidation of journalists by a variety of actors continues; on a number of occasions during 2006, reporters were attacked by police or others while attempting to cover the news, and others were abducted or threatened by right-wing groups, insurgents, local-level officials, or criminals. Members of the press are particularly vulnerable in rural areas and insurgency-racked states such as Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, Assam, and Manipur. Two journalists were killed, including Prahlad Goala, a young journalist apparently murdered in Assam after writing a series of articles accusing a forest warden of misconduct and corruption. Conditions are particularly difficult in the 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. In May, the main cable TV operator withdrew some programming after threats from insurgents. 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 late November, a journalist and his wife were arrested and detained, accused of harboring insurgents; police refused to release his wife even when ordered to by a judge. Photojournalist Maqbool Sahil has been detained since September 2004 under the Public Safety Act despite October 2005 and August 2006 high court decisions calling for his release.
Most print media, particularly the national and English-language press, are privately owned, provide diverse coverage, and frequently scrutinize 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. In November, the government announced a new policy designed to legitimize community radio and enable nonprofit groups and others to apply for station licenses. 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. Foreign media are allowed to operate freely. Internet access is unrestricted, although some states have proposed legislation that would require the registration of customers at internet cafés, and the government retains the right to censor the internet, particularly on the grounds of morality or national security. Following the Mumbai train bombings of July 2006, an official attempt to block several controversial web pages led inadvertently to a temporary ban on access to thousands of blogs. The internet was accessed by only 3.5 percent of the population during the year.