press freedom index in india over the last 10 years

Press Freedom Index in India Over the Last 10 Years: A Cause for Concern?

Press freedom plays a vital role in democracy, providing the public with essential information and ensuring transparency and accountability in governance. Over the past decade, the Press Freedom Index has become a critical tool for evaluating the state of press freedom globally. However, the Press Freedom Index in India over the last 10 years has been a topic of intense debate and concern. This article delves into the intricacies of the Press Freedom Index, how it is measured, India's performance, and the factors influencing its ranking.

What is the Press Freedom Index?

The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking that assesses the level of freedom available to journalists in various countries. Compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a non-profit organization, the index evaluates the media environment in 180 countries and territories. It highlights the level of freedom journalists, news organizations, and netizens enjoy, along with the efforts made by authorities to respect and ensure this freedom.

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Measurement Parameters

The Press Freedom Index is based on a variety of parameters that collectively paint a comprehensive picture of media freedom in each country. These parameters include:

  • Pluralism: This assesses the degree to which diverse opinions are represented in the media.
  • Media Independence: This measures the extent to which the media can function independently of political, governmental, business, and religious influences.
  • Environment and Self-Censorship: This parameter examines the working conditions for journalists and the level of self-censorship.
  • Legislative Framework: This evaluates the legislative environment for the media, including the level of protection for journalists and the media.
  • Transparency: This assesses the transparency of institutions and procedures that affect the production of news and information.
  • Infrastructure: This considers the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
  • Abuses: This parameter accounts for the level of violence and harassment journalists face in the line of duty.

Who Measures It?

The Press Freedom Index is measured by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based non-governmental organization that conducts annual surveys of media freedom worldwide. RSF gathers data from a range of sources, including:

  • Questionnaires were filled out by journalists, researchers, jurists, and human rights activists.
  • On-the-ground reports from RSF's network of correspondents in over 130 countries.
  • Analysis of media laws and regulations.
  • Documentation of violations against journalists and media outlets.

Which Are the Top 5 Performing Countries in 2024?

Each year, the Press Freedom Index highlights countries that exemplify strong media freedom. As of the latest rankings, the top five performing countries are:

  1. Norway: Consistently at the top, Norway is celebrated for its robust legal framework protecting journalists, a highly pluralistic media landscape, and a strong tradition of media independence.
  2. Denmark: Denmark ranks highly due to its supportive media infrastructure, minimal restrictions on journalists, and strong legal protections.
  3. Sweden: Sweden offers a high degree of media freedom with a transparent government, a supportive legal environment, and a diverse media landscape.
  4. Netherlands: With a rich tradition of press freedom, the Netherlands provides a secure environment for journalists, minimal censorship, and high media independence.
  5. Finland: Finland's media environment is characterized by high transparency, minimal government interference, and strong protections for journalists.

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Which Are the Worst 5 Performing Countries in 2024?

Conversely, the worst Press Freedom Index also sheds light on countries where freedom of journalism is severely restricted. The five worst countries in the latest rankings are:

  1. Iran Iran ranks 176th in the 2024 Press Freedom Index, characterized by heavy censorship, government control over media, and harsh reprisals against journalists who criticize the regime.
  2. North Korea: North Korea remains at 177th, where the state exercises absolute control over all media, with no independent journalism permitted and severe penalties for any dissent.
  3. Afghanistan: Afghanistan, at 178th, faces extreme challenges to press freedom, with journalists frequently targeted by both state and non-state actors, particularly under the Taliban's rule.
  4. Syria: Syria, ranked 179th, suffers from a highly dangerous environment for journalists due to the ongoing conflict, with widespread violence and strict state censorship.
  5. Eritrea: Eritrea is the worst performer at 180th, maintaining a complete state monopoly on information, with no independent press and severe consequences for unauthorized reporting.

Press Freedom Index in India Over the Last 10 Years

The country's position on the Press Freedom Index is 159th—ranking lower than neighbouring Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. In the latest index, it saw a slight improvement, moving up to 159th place, but still ranks below all neighbours except Bangladesh, which is at 165th place.

A Decade of Decline

Over the past decade, India's ranking in the Press Freedom Index has shown a worrying decline. Once considered a bastion of a free press in the developing world, India has faced increasing challenges that have eroded its media freedom. Here is a closer look at India's performance year by year:

  • 2014: Ranked 140th, India experienced initial signs of declining press freedom with increasing reports of violence against journalists.
  • 2015: India was ranked 136th in the Press Freedom Index, with increasing reports of legislative restrictions and harassment that threatened journalistic independence.
  • 2016: India's ranking improved slightly to 133rd, but concerns persisted regarding the safety of journalists and the pressures exerted by both governmental and non-governmental entities.
  • 2017: Dropping to 136th, the country witnessed heightened violence against journalists and rising self-censorship.
  • 2018: India was ranked 138th amid increasing violence against journalists and notable high-profile attacks that underscored the dangers faced by the press.
  • 2019: From 138th, India's rank fell further to 140th, marked by significant violence against journalists, including high-profile murders.
  • 2020: Ranked 142nd, India saw increased online harassment of journalists, particularly women, and restrictions on reporting in conflict areas like Kashmir.
  • 2021: The rank continued the same as 142nd, with the pandemic exacerbating challenges to press freedom, including arrests and physical attacks on journalists.
  • 2022: India was ranked 150th in the Press Freedom Index, reflecting ongoing concerns about violence against journalists, government interference, and restrictive laws impacting media freedom.
  • 2023: By 2023, India's ranking slipped further to 161st, indicating a worsening environment for press freedom with increased harassment, arrests, and pressure on independent media outlets.
  • 2024: In 2024, India improved slightly to 159th, but significant challenges remain, including persistent threats against journalists and systemic issues that stifle free and independent reporting.

Critical Analysis

Over the past decade, press freedom in India has faced significant deterioration due to escalating violence against independent journalists, increasing legislative restrictions, and widespread harassment. Indian journalists have encountered physical attacks, legal intimidation, and high-profile murders, leading to pervasive self-censorship.

Economic pressures and political influence over media ownership have further compromised journalistic independence, narrowing the scope for critical reporting. The rise of digital harassment, particularly against women journalists, and state surveillance have compounded these challenges, creating a hostile environment that stifles free and independent journalism. Despite minor improvements in some areas, substantial efforts are needed to address these systemic issues and restore press freedom for journalism in India.

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Causes Behind India's Performance

India's performance in press freedom rankings is influenced by factors such as increased violence against journalists, legislative measures curtailing media freedom, and concentrated media ownership aligned with political interests. Political pressures and societal biases also contribute to the challenging environment for independent journalism in the country.

Violence Against Journalists

India's position in the Press Freedom Index is significantly affected by the high levels of violence against journalists. On average, three to four journalists are killed each year due to their work, making India one of the most dangerous countries for media professionals. Journalists who criticize the government face online harassment, physical attacks, threats, and arbitrary arrests. The situation is exacerbated by coordinated hate campaigns on social media, especially targeting women journalists, often leading to severe personal and professional repercussions.

Highly Concentrated Media Ownership

The media landscape in India has become highly concentrated, with a few conglomerates controlling most media outlets. This concentration has been facilitated by the political alignment of media owners with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Notable examples include the acquisition of NDTV by Gautam Adani, a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, a close friend of the prime minister, controls over 70 media outlets with a combined audience of at least 800 million Indians. Such concentration reduces media pluralism and leads to biased reporting, favouring the government and diminishing critical journalism.

Political Context

Since Narendra Modi's rise to power in 2014, there has been a spectacular rapprochement between the BJP and dominant media families. The prime minister's disdain for critical journalists and his direct communication strategy has further marginalized the freedom situation. The media's alignment with political interests compromises its role as a watchdog of democracy.

The legal environment in India allows the use of colonial-era laws and newly introduced regulations to suppress media freedom of expression. Laws related to sedition, defamation, and anti-state activities are frequently used to intimidate and silence journalists. Recent legislation, such as the 2023 Telecommunications Act and the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, grants the government extensive control over the media, enabling censorship and stifling dissent.

Economic Context

Advertising revenue, predominantly from the government, is the primary funding source for Indian media. This financial dependence allows the government to exert significant pressure on media outlets to censor their content. The central and state governments leverage advertising funds to influence media reporting, particularly affecting smaller outlets that rely heavily on this revenue. This economic manipulation curtails the freedom of speech.

Sociocultural Context

The media landscape in India does not reflect the country's vast sociocultural diversity. The journalism profession is dominated by Hindu men from upper castes, leading to biased reporting and limited representation of diverse perspectives. Religious news, often advocating Hindu nationalist ideology and fostering anti-Muslim sentiment, occupies significant airtime. However, there are exceptions, such as Khabar Lahariya, which highlights the voices of women journalists from rural and minority communities.

Safety in Conflict Zones

The safety of journalists in conflict zones like Kashmir remains precarious. Reporters face harassment, intimidation, and detention by police and paramilitary forces. The threat of "provisional" detention, often for extended periods, severely restricts journalistic freedom in these areas. The hostile environment in such regions underscores the broader challenges faced by the press in India.

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How Can It Be Improved?

By taking these steps, India can aspire to improve its standing in the Press Freedom Index and reaffirm its commitment to the fundamental principles of press freedom.

To improve press freedom in India, there must be a concerted effort to strengthen legal protections for journalists. Repealing or amending draconian laws that are used to intimidate and harass journalists is crucial. Ensuring that journalists have the legal right to report without fear of retribution is a foundational step.

Enhancing Security for Journalists

Improving the physical security of journalists is paramount. Establishing mechanisms to protect journalists from violence and threats, such as dedicated hotlines and support networks, can help mitigate the risks they face. Swift and transparent investigations into attacks on journalists will also deter potential perpetrators.

Promoting Independent Journalism

Supporting independent journalism is vital for a robust media landscape. This can be achieved through grants, fellowships, and other funding mechanisms that enable journalists to pursue investigative reporting without commercial pressures. Encouraging diversity in media ownership can also reduce the concentration of power and promote a plurality of voices.

Supporting Transparency and Accountability

Building a culture of transparency and accountability within both government and media organizations is essential. This includes ensuring access to information, protecting whistleblowers, and fostering an environment where investigative journalism is valued and supported.

Leveraging Technology Responsibly

Harnessing technology to protect journalists and promote press freedom is another avenue for improvement. Secure communication tools, digital safety training, and platforms for whistleblowing can empower journalists. Additionally, combating online harassment through stronger regulations and tech solutions can make digital spaces safer for journalists.

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The Press Freedom Index in India over the last 10 years presents a cause for concern. The decline in India's ranking reflects a broader trend of diminishing press freedom, marked by increasing political pressure, violence, economic challenges, and digital threats. Addressing these issues requires a multifaceted approach, including legal reforms, enhanced security, support for independent journalism, and the responsible use of technology since ensuring a free and vibrant press is essential for the health of India's democracy and the empowerment of its citizens.


What is the rank of Pakistan in the World Press Freedom Index 2024?

Pakistan is ranked 152nd in the World Press Freedom Index for the year 2024.

What is the full form of RSF?

RSF stands for Reporters Without Borders, an international non-governmental organization based in France. It works to promote and defend press freedom and journalists' rights worldwide, including in India.

Which country has topped the World Press Freedom Index in 2024?


Komala Rudra

Komala Rudra is a devoted mother and author who explores children's behavior and nutrition, offering valuable insights and practical guidance for parents and caregivers. Her writings aim to nurture healthy habits and stronger connections between parents and their little ones.

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