Washington Post publishes full-page ad on India’s curbs on Press ahead of Modi’s White House visit

A full-page ad published by Washington Post on India’s curbs on Press ahead of Modi’s White House visit.

As Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is in US visit and is scheduled to visit the White House, six global journalist organizations on Wednesday said that press freedom in India is under attack.

Six international journalist organisations said in a Washington Post advertisement that Indian journalists are subject to a variety of attacks, including as physical violence, harassment, fictitious litigation, and hate campaigns on social media.

It carried the photos of six journalists currently detained in India:  Asif Sultan, Fahad Shah, Irfan Mehraj, Gautam Navlakha and Rupesh Kumar.

“India is the world’s largest democracy, yet it is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media,” it said.

“Press freedom is under increasing threat, with journalists facing physical violence, harassment, bogus lawsuits, and hate campaigns on social media.”

The ad also said “leaders around the world who value democracy must urge those in power in India to stop the threats against journalists there”.

Earlier this week, 75 Democrats, including senators and members of the house of representatives, had written to Biden urging him to discuss with Modi concerns about press freedom, internet access, and religious intolerance in India.

On June 14, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement calling on the US government to urge India to end its media crackdown and release the six journalists arbitrarily detained in retaliation for their work:

“Since Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, there has been an increasing crackdown on India’s media,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg.

“Journalists critical of the government and the BJP party have been jailed, harassed, and surveilled in retaliation for their work. India is the world’s largest democracy, and it needs to live up to that by ensuring a free and independent media–and we expect the United States to make this a core element of discussions.”

CPJ convened an online panel, “India’s Press Freedom Crisis,” with opening remarks and moderation by Ginsberg alongside panelists Geeta Seshu, founding editor of the Free Speech Collective watchdog group; Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the Kashmir Times newspaper; and Shahina K.K., senior editor for Outlook magazine.

The panelists discussed the deterioration of press freedom over the last decade, with Seshu detailing the rise in censorship and “vicious” attacks on the media, while Shahina shared her ongoing battle to fight terrorism charges filed nearly 13 years ago by the Karnataka state government, then led by Modi’s BJP party, in retaliation for her investigative reporting.

Bhasin spoke about the “effective silence” that Kashmiri journalists have dealt with since the Modi government unilaterally revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomy status in 2019, with multiple cases of reporters being detained and interrogated.

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