India’s Vice President hurls press freedom debate

On 2 february, India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu took a shot at the country’s news media and pushed for restraint. According to a report by  the Press Information Bureau, Naidu advocated for prescribing a minimum educational qualification for aspiring journalists. He added that the country’s press stands a chance of becoming captive receivers of biased and partisan information.

The comments from Naidu have come two days after the government was cornered by a scoop, which said that the unemployment in the country was at its worst in 45 years based on an undisclosed survey submitted to the government by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). This is not the first time that governments in India have advocated curbs on press freedom. Just last year, a similar attempt by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry had to be withdrawn after a severe backlash from the industry. 

India already ranks 138 out of 180 countries in the world, just one notch above Pakistan, for press freedom. While the country still has a number of news media, the challenges for journalists have risen including mysterious journalist deaths. The World Press Freedom Index Report 2018 by Reporters Without Borders said, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent. At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 including newspaper editor Gauri Lankesh, was a target of a hate campaign on social networks.