The more progressive world we step into, the more challenges human rights, journalism, and democracy are strangled with. India has always been a notorious defaulter regarding human rights advocacy, media credibility, and democracy constraints. According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2022, Indian authorities blocked activists, journalists, and other government opponents 2021 by utilising politically motivated prosecutions. During a spike in Covid-19 instances, tens of thousands of individuals perished because the government failed to give those who needed sufficient medical care.
The severe counterterrorism law, tax raids, foreign financing restrictions, and allegations of financial irregularities helped assist the crackdown on the opposition. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Hindu nationalist administration allowed attacks against religious minorities to happen without consequence. While numerous states established laws and policies to target minority populations, including Christians, Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis, BJP supporters carried out mob attacks or made threats of violence.
Being part of the global cooperative Pegasus Project, the Indian news website The Wire revealed that Israeli corporation NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware targeted Indian human rights activists, journalists, and opposition politicians. The business claims to sell the malware “only to authorised governmental agencies.” Additionally, the government passed new regulations that permit greater authority over internet information, pose a severe danger to encoding, and seriously impair security and free speech.
The government ended the 18-month internet blackout in Jammu and Kashmir in February after rescinding the state’s constitutional authority and dividing it into two federally administered areas in August 2019. As a result of heightened harassment, some Kashmiri journalists were detained on terrorism-related allegations.UN experts expressed alarm over abuses in Kashmir, such as the arbitrary incarceration of journalists, claimed executions in prison, and a “broader sequence of continuous infractions of basic liberties used targeting the local population.”
Not just human rights, even in the field of journalism and media directors, India is no longer in any good books of the public, which is directly linked to the poor democracy set up in the country. Ten human rights groups stated on World Press Freedom Day that Indian authorities are increasingly going after journalists and online critics for their criticism of the government’s policies and actions, including by pursuing people under sedition and terrorist legislation.
The Indian government should cease persecuting journalists and stop stifling independent media. It should respect the right to freedom of speech by releasing any journalists jailed on false or politically motivated allegations.
In addition to a larger crackdown on dissent, the authorities’ targeting of journalists has given Hindu nationalists the confidence to insult, harass, and threaten Indian government critics physically and online, the groups claimed. After removing Jammu and Kashmir from its special autonomous status in August 2019 and dividing it into two federally ruled areas, the government stepped up its crackdown there. Since then, at least 35 journalists in Kashmir have endured police questioning, raids, threats, physical assault, infringements on their freedom of movement, or false criminal charges due to their reporting. The government has seized their cell phones and increased house searches on journalists and activists. The administration unveiled a new media strategy in June 2020, giving the government further control over the region’s news censorship.
Kashmir authorities also hold journalists without charge or trial under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act’s provision for preventative detention. Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan, and Sajad Gul were detained again in 2022 by the police under the Public Safety Act after being released on bail in separate proceedings brought against them as punishment for their journalism work.
Due to regular internet shutdowns by the local government, journalists in Kashmir have also had difficulty reporting. According to Access Now, India “became the world’s biggest offender for the fourth consecutive year” by shutting down the internet at least 106 times in 2021. Jammu and Kashmir in India suffered the most, with at least 85 shutdowns.
The use of technological devices by government agencies to curtail digital expression and weaken human rights is on the rise. In February 2021, the Indian government published the IT Rules, jeopardising its confidentiality and liberty of speech entitlement. These regulations allow the government to immediately delete internet information without consulting the courts. Additionally, they endanger encryption, a vital component of internet privacy and security that journalists frequently utilise to shield themselves and their sources from attack. The Editors Guild of India claims that the rules limit free speech in the press. Several UN civil rights professionals have expressed alarm about the recommendations’ failure to comply with global standards for human rights.
There is an attack on plurality and democracy. Dictators are working hard to eradicate any remaining internal dissent and extend their destructive influence to new regions of the globe. Many democratically elected politicians also drastically limit their priorities to a limited understanding of the national interest. In reality, these leaders—including the presidents of the two biggest democracies in the world, the United States and India—are increasingly inclined to undermine institutional protections and violate the rights of critics and minorities to advance their populist objectives.
With a series of measures that violate the rights of various groups within its Muslim minority, the Indian government has elevated its Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level, endangering the survival of democracy in a nation that has long been considered a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the wider globe. Other democratic governments continue to attack immigrant rights, contributing to a tolerant international atmosphere for more abuses. China continued to carry out one of the most aggressive programs of religious and ethnic persecution in the world, and it progressively used methods that were initially used on minorities in the general public and even in other nations.
The trend demonstrated how minority rights breaches undermine institutional and cultural obstacles that uphold everyone’s right to freedom.
India shows that holding government officials liable is not the responsibility of the media. Goons with ties to the ruling party have broken into the residences and workplaces of critical reporters, and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party has supported efforts to outlaw “anti-national” remarks. The news industry has purportedly become more favourable to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won a second term last month, in reaction to allegations that the administration gives instructions regarding how reporters should portray its acts or threatens journalists who object. The federal government is additionally picky in how it distributes television permits to keep undesirable networks off the airwaves successfully.
The author is a dedicated freelance columnist with a profound research interest in advocating for human rights and nurturing the art of impactful newsroom writing. She has collaborated with reputable organizations and newspapers, including UNV, PO, and others. She can be reached at email@example.com.