‘All that is left for Modi is to neutralise the media outlets and journalists that question his divisive methods’ says Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) (RSF). RSF a global media watchdog has named Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with 36 other heads of state as ‘press freedom predators‘ for his ‘insidious strategy’ to clamp down on press freedom in the country.
Unsurprisingly, Narendra Modi has been on RSF’s ‘press freedom predators’ gallery since his party BJP came to power in the Center in 2014. Earlier, India ranked at 142nd position out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
Apart from PM Modi, this year’s list includes North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Myanmar’s military head Min Aung Hlaing.
PM Modi’s predator method as termed by RSF is defined as ‘national populism and disinformation’. The description of his rule on RSF’s website says that ‘his leading weapon is to flood the mainstream media with speeches and information tending to legitimise his national-populist ideology. To this end, he has developed close ties with billionaire businessmen who own vast media empires.’
It goes on to say that ‘journalists risk the possibility of life imprisonment under the extremely vague charge of sedition. To round off this arsenal, Modi can count on an army of online trolls known as “yodha” (the Hindi word for “warriors”), who wage appalling hate campaigns on social media against the journalists they don’t like, campaigns that almost routinely include calls for the journalists to be killed,’ critiquing the legal and online harassment and attacks on journalists by Modi regime.
The ‘predatory’ behaviour of Modi’s regime towards press freedom culminated during the COVID19 pandemic when media houses favoured by the government ran vicious campaigns to vilify Muslims in the Tablighi Jamat incident. Later on, during the second wave of the pandemic when people all across the country were dying due to a shortage of required medical assistance and oxygen, the ‘Godi media’ as Indians call the media houses close to the ruling party, continued to portray that ‘everything was fine’ in the country while the journalists critical of the regime were slapped with FIRs by the government.
Read More: Press freedom: how governments are using COVID as an excuse to crack down on the public’s right to know