Increased Attacks on Media in Modified India
Although the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, legal protections are not always sufficiently upheld by the courts or respected by government officials. A number of laws that remain on books can be used to restrict media freedom. The sedition law, formally Section 124A of the 1860 penal code, outlaws expression that can cause “hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection” toward the government. The 1923 Official Secrets Act empowers authorities to censor security-related articles and prosecute members of the press. State and national authorities, along with the courts, have also punished sensitive reporting by using other security laws, criminal defamation legislation, bans on blasphemy, hate speech, and contempt of court charges.
Censorship in democratic India continues to be on the rise. This dismaying trend was starkly evident in the first quarter of 2014. Last year, according to a report on “Free Speech in India” by the media watch dog, at least 21 cases of censorship were reported, including in the broadcast and print media. Additionally 81 cases of defamation, 26 cases of sedition and 8 cases of surveillance against journalists were reported against the creative community. There was news that in the first four months of this year, something like 22 cases of attacks against journalists was reported. Bulk of these cases are from Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh where, civil society activists, lawyers, intellectuals and journalists have been hauled up for allegedly siding with the Maoists. Journalists reported difficulty in gaining access to government officials, and expressed concerns over heavy-handed government censorship during the year. Journalists and writers reported receiving threats in connection with their work, amid a national debate on whether there was rising intolerance in the country. Violence is encouraged by the prevailing climate of impunity.
Featured image courtesy debate.org
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