'Troll armies in PM Narendra Modi's pay': Why India slipped in 2018 World Press Freedom Index

In its report, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has blamed 'Modi's nationalism' and asserted that journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalist. 

'Troll armies in PM Narendra Modi's pay': Why India slipped in 2018 World Press Freedom Index

NEW DELHI: India has dropped two spots from 136 to 138 in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by global watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. The report concludes that hatred of journalism is threatening democracies across the world.

In its report, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has blamed 'Modi's nationalism' and asserted that journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalist. 

"With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media and journalists are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals. At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 were targeted in connection with their work," the report read.

The report also holds 'troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pay' responsible for the state of press in India. "In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay," it said. 

"Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment. No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship," the report claims.

Mentioning how media coverage is difficult in areas such as Kashmir, it states the fact that the internet connection has to be often discontinued in the state. "Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult. Foreign reporters are barred from the region and the Internet is often disconnected there. When not detained, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent."

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