Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been named on a list of 37 heads of state or government accused of being “predator of press freedom” by French media watchdog Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF).
The organization has called it the ‘Gallery of Grim Portrait’, that is, the gallery of faces that increase despair. The 37 faces of this gallery also include the face of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi is accompanied by Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Army Chief Min Aung Halang, who led the military coup in Myanmar, Imran Khan of Pakistan and Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
The RSF has said that media freedoms are being trampled on in these countries, new censorship tools are being developed, journalists are being jailed arbitrarily and journalists are even murdered.
The RSF report criticized the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It states-
- Narendra Modi, after becoming the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, invented ways to control the press and sources of information and tried them after becoming the Prime Minister in 2014.
- His main weapon is to flood the mainstream media with a plethora of speeches and information to legitimize his nationalist-populist policies.
- In this, he has the support of billionaire businessmen who have captured the media empire.
- Modi’s strategy has two points – on the one hand he gives a lot of wrong information to the big media houses and these journalists know that they will lose their jobs if they criticize the government.
- On the other hand, they propagate misinformation with their divisive and derogatory speeches and through this helps the media houses to reach out to more people.
- Modi’s job to pacify those who question Modi’s divisive ways. For this they resort to the law and it is a threat to the freedom of the press.
- Apart from this, Modi has an online army whose warriors are adept at trolling and running hate campaigns on social media, targeting opponents and even appealing to kill journalists.
The RSF report discussed the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh and how journalists critical of Modi such as Rana Ayub and Barkha Dutt were targeted.
Leaders and ministers of the ruling BJP in India have been calling such reports “partisan” and “biased”, saying India is the world’s largest democracy where the press has full freedom to criticize.
However, there have been constant allegations from the journalists’ organization and the opposition that the Modi government is tightening its grip on the media.
Kanchan Gupta, senior advisor in the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, rubbished the report, calling it “fact-free” and “baseless”.