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India ranks 133 out of 180 in World Press Freedom Index

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Press conference by CPP. Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 20, 2016:

Pinning blame on leaders in Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Malaysia, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) placed those four countries along with Bangladesh in the bottom third among 180 nations evaluated in its 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

The index released on Wednesday had Indonesia, at 130, ranked highest among the five Asian nations, followed by India – the world’s most populous democracy – at 133; Junta-ruled Thailand, at 136; Bangladesh at 144; and Malaysia at 146.

The annual index “reflects the intensity of the attacks on journalistic freedom and independence by governments, ideologies and private-sector interests during the past year,” Paris-based RSF said in releasing the 2016 index.

Writing about the Asia-Pacific region, the report specifically cited India and Bangladesh for taking little action in response to violence against journalists and writers.

“Wherever they work, Indian journalists are exposed to growing violence. As well as frequent verbal and physical violence, attacks by armed groups are on the rise in several states and the local authorities have had little success in reining it in,” RSF said in a press release.

RSF said there was almost one attack on an Indian journalist each month and four journalists were murdered in 2015, including at least two in connection with their work.

The Committee to Protect Journalists identified  those Indian reporters killed in four separate incidents last year as freelancers Jagendra Singh and Sandeep Kothari, Aaj Tak reporter Akshay Singh, and TV24 reporter Hemant Yadav.

India saw its ranking improve by three spots from last year, yet RSF criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s apparent indifference on the issue of press freedom.

“Journalists and bloggers are attacked and anathematized by various religious groups that are quick to take offense. At the same time, it is hard for journalists to cover regions such as Kashmir that are regarded as sensitive by the government,” the report said.

“Modi seems indifferent to these threats and problems, and there is no mechanism for protecting journalists. Instead, in a desire to increase control of media coverage, Modi envisages opening a journalism university run by former propaganda ministry officials,” RSF added.

Regarding Bangladesh, which moved up two spots to No. 144 on the index, RSF alluded to threats against secular writers or anyone who questioned the official religion.

“It is a bad idea to criticize the constitution or Islam, the state religion. Journalists and bloggers who refuse to submit to censorship or to censor themselves on these subjects risk life imprisonment or the death penalty,” RSF’s report said.

Last year alone, five secular writers were hacked to death by suspected militants in Bangladesh.

Indonesia shows improvement

Although Indonesia ranked 130th out of 180 nations and showed significant improvement by moving up eight spots on the index, RSF criticized President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for not doing enough to uphold press freedom in his country.

“Sometimes dubbed the Indonesian Obama, President Joko Widodo has disappointed. His presidency continues to be marked by serious media freedom violations, including lack of access to West Papua, an information black hole,” the report said, referring to a restive province on the eastern end of Indonesia.

“Journalists and fixers trying to work there are liable to be arrested. The problem is compounded by Indonesia’s visa law, which discriminates against foreign journalists. At the same time, many poorly paid journalists accept bribes in return for positive coverage,” RSF said.

Thai junta challenged

The report also took aim at the military leadership in Thailand, which dropped two spots on the index, to 136. RSF called the junta ubiquitous and all-powerful, claiming it exercised permanent control over journalists and citizen-journalists.

“Its leader, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, is given to frequent verbal attacks and even death threats against journalists. He is a new predator of information,” the report claimed.

In November, RSF published a separate report claiming that the junta had created a “reign of terror” over the Thai media since seizing power in May 2014.

The junta’s obsessiveness with peace and order – “or its use as a pretext, has stripped journalists and independent civil society representatives of the media freedom and freedom of information that they had won at great cost during the previous decade,” the November report said.

Malaysia crackdown

In Malaysia, RSF criticized the country’s leader for ordering police crackdowns on the media amid corruption scandals overshadowing his government.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak wages a personal war against independent media and does not hesitate to order police raids on newsrooms. These heavy-handed operations often result in arbitrary arrests,” the report said.

“The persecution of outspoken journalists extends to the Internet, where sites such as Sarawak and The Edge have been blocked for reporting alleged corruption involving government officials.”

Measuring the data

In compiling information for its index that gauges press freedom worldwide, RSF devised and distributed a questionnaire to journalists, lawyers and sociologists in the 180 countries.

“The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information,” RSF explained.

In addition, a team of specialists kept a detailed tally of abuses and violence against journalists and media outlets. Scores are calculated on the basis of the questionnaire responses combined with the data on abuses and violence against journalists. (BenarNews)

1 COMMENT

  1. The importance of freedom of press was acknowledged the most at the time of Vernacular Press Act when even after being censored, the media was finding ways to penetrate. We all know free press is important for effective democracy and growth of the nation. But still there are cases when journalists, like Akshay Singh who was probing Vyapam scam, are mysteriously murdered. If this is the upshot of the endeavours of a journalist then the democracy is in danger.

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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Delhi University Students Win the Enactus World Cup 2017

India wins the Enactus World Cup 2017

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Delhi University
India wins Enactus World Cup 2017. Twitter.

New Delhi, Sep 30: After an extremely tough competition between different students across the world in the Enactus World Cup 2017, Team India, represented by Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS), Delhi University emerged as the winner. The winning projects were project UDAAN and Mission RAAHAT.

Supporting the Government of India’s Digital India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan mission, RAAHAT strives to effectively eliminate open defecation and provide safe sanitation in the urban slums; whereas, UDAAN aims at narrowing the digital divide between rural and urban India by setting up computer centres.

The Delhi University college team was led by the college’s faculty advisor, Anuja Mathur and student president of SSCBS Student President Aditya Sharma. The winning projects included 34 more members. The Enactus India and Enactus SSCBS were presented the Ford Better World Award of USD 50,000.

Also Read: Three Indian Women on Fortune’s Most Powerful Business Women

President and Global CEO, Enactus, Rachael A. Jarosh congratulated the Indian for winning the world cup and called the projects- RAAHAT and UDAAN, inspirational success stories of Enactus students, who are sowing businesses. She said that the projects address the real world challenges efficiently and innovatively. Enactus India President Farhan Pettiwala said that the two projects created by Delhi University students contribute to the country’s betterment, as they support the Government’s civil and social agenda.

Enactus is an international nonprofit organisation, with 72,000 students from 1,700 universities in 36 countries, which held its annual global event in London from September 26 to 28. A selected group of 3,500 students, business, government leaders and academicians across the globe were present at the event. Participants for the final competition round are qualified from over 72,000 university students. Each team has about 17 minutes to present their projects of entrepreneurial action.

Enactus works to nurture the entrepreneurial skills of students, and to address fundamental, social and economic challenges by developing innovative and experiential learning opportunities for students.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.