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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
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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)

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  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    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.

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    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.

Next Story

Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)