Persistent attempts by Indian authorities to censor the Internet and failure to protect the lives of four journalists, has led to the sharpest decline of freedom of press in the Indian sub continent, according to a new report.
“The Indian subcontinent was the Asian region that saw the sharpest deterioration in the climate for those involved in news and information in 2012,” the latest annual press freedom index said.
“Four journalists were killed in India and Bangladesh in 2012, which fell to 140th and 144th respectively in the index,” said the report by Reporters Without Borders. India was ranked 131 last year.
The report added
In India, the “world’s biggest democracy,” the authorities insist on censoring the web and imposing more and more taboos while violence against journalists goes unpunished and the regions of Kashmir and Chattisgarh become increasingly isolated.
The ranking is based on factors such as pluralism, media independence, censorship, legislative framework, transparency and Infrastructure.
Brazil was ranked at 108, Russia at 148th and China was ranked at 173rd. Russia fell again because Vladimir Putin’s return to presidency has increased repression, the report said. China showed no signs of improvement as its prisons still hold many journalists and netizens while increasingly unpopular Internet censorship continues to be a major obstacle to access to information. In Brazil, five journalists were killed in 2012.
Read the full report here.
Censorship in India
The latest tool to be added to the government’s surveillance arsenal is the India Central Monitoring System capable of monitoring email, blogs, media reports, dossiers, Internet traffic, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter among others. A similar Internet monitoring system is being planned in the North Eastern region of the country at a cost of Rs 180 crore.
Meanwhile, a combination of CCTV networks, National Intelligence Grid, Social Media Labs and web tools are being put to use in the country.
There have been many instances Internet material including cartoons and memes being censored at the behest of politicians and the court.
Last week, search giant Google reported a 90% increase in content removal requests from the Indian government between July- December 2012 as compared the the previous half of the year.
Porn Ban & Litigation*
Internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook are facing a tough litigious future in India, a country where recent incidents of violent crimes against women has prompted certain groups to demand bans on Internet pornography and policing of the web.
Most recently, a court in Tamil Nadu has issued a notice to search Giant Google and the Computer Emergency Response Team of India based on a complaint by an Internet user that the website was suggesting pornography whenever people search for Hotmail.
* From our earlier coverage: Now Google Sued at Tamil Nadu Court for Showing “explicit” Content on Hotmail Keyword Search