Friday, October 21, 2005

World Press Freedom Index 2005

It is tragic that Guardian's Iraq reporter Rory Carrol was abducted (and later released after 32 hours in a darkened room with handcuffs) around the same time Reporters Without Borders released the World Press Freedom Index 2005. Hats off to journalists, like Rory, who work under very dangerous conditions especially braving the threats of the state machinery.

The report says "North Korea once again comes bottom of the index. It is closely followed in the 167-country list by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th), which are other “black holes” for news where the privately-owned media is not allowed and freedom of expression does not exist.

"At the top of the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is firmly established.

"Some Western democracies slipped down the Index. The United States (44th) fell more than 20 places, mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources."

India is ranked 106 -- very surprising. The probable reason: news on radio is still under complete government control. The FM which was unshackled from government control just a few years back, still have no right to broadcast news.

This may look very strange when there are so many 24 hour private TV news channels. But government knows radio has a far greater reach than TV. Private radio news channels, when allowed, have every chance of becoming very popular in a country like India, which is not only politically vibrant but also has high levels of current awareness. It is easier to open a radio station than a TV station, and probably the government is fighting shy of a scenario where villages too will slip out of government's propoganda radar, like cities already have.

Except during the period of Emergency (1975 to 77) media in India has not come under any government control. The media, barring radio, even now is not at all under any government control as far as content goes. Probably the survey has taken into account the government control and licensing that is restricting the growth of the media.


  1. how can you say that the indian media is not under any control? and the content is not under any control, thats really rediculous.why wasnt the news of the IIPM cotroversy not published in most of the newspaper(including prominent paper like Times).is it because they give newspaper ,Ads which accounts to more than a crore(per month). In fact, the political abuse of Indian television led to demands to increase the autonomy of Doordarshan; these demands ultimately resulted in support for the Prasar Bharati Act.doesnt ads contol media. what about JAYA TV and SUN TV?

  2. Timberwolf, I appreciate your comment. The point to be noted here is that the survey is about government control. That's what is most repressive. Do not confuse this with limits to individual freedom, which you are referring to. I was referring to govt controls.

    The latter part of your comment itself answers the point. The fact that there is NOT JUST Jaya TV but also its rival Sun TV speaks volumes about the freedom that Indian media enjoys.

    We are quite blessed to live in such a free and democratic country like India, where we have the freedom to publish and access a whole spectrum of views -- from the serious and highbrow at one end to the trivial and total trash at the other. You and I enjoy the freedom to pick what we want. Not many people in the world have that. It's this freedom that I was referring to.

    There is nothing like absolute individual freedom in the world. My freedom ends where yours begin. Again, this is not to be confused with the state control.