Official Panel Sees ‘Western Bias’ in India’s Low Press Freedom Rank But Wants Defamation Decriminalised -Sukanya Shantha
‘Index Monitoring Cell’ member P. Sainath distances himself from ‘draft’ report, submits separate note.
Mumbai: A committee set up by the Narendra Modi government last year to suggest ways of India improving its ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has concluded that the media is doing well and that India’s poor score – which it says is “not in line with the ground situation” – is the product of “western bias”.
But in a nod to the growing incidence of criminal cases being filed against reporters and editors across the country – cases that are widely seen as an attack on media freedom – the committee’s draft report has also asked the government to consider making it mandatory for the police to secure the consent of the Press Council of India (PCI) before “filing an FIR against a media for her/his publication of a news article, cartoon, opinion or photograph”. Another key recommendation is the decriminalising of defamation. India is one of the few democracies to retain the offence of criminal defamation on the statute books.
In addition, it recommends that the PCI be recast as the ‘Media Council of India’ to cover “the entire gamut of media, i.e., newspapers and periodicals in print or other form, e-newspapers, news portals, social media and any other platform of news dissemination besides electronic media.” This recommendation is at variance with the government’s controversial new policy, announced last month, of introducing a sweeping new regulatory regime for digital news.
Please click here to read more.
TheWire.in, 14 March, 2021, https://thewire.in/media/official-panel-western-bias-india-poor-ranking-world-press-freedom-index