India ranks 138 in Press Freedom Index; PCI rubbishes report
Press Council of India has rubbished the recently released Press Freedom Index, in which India slipped two places to rank 138 among 180 countries, saying there was a "lack of clarity" on the inputs that weighed in rankings which were based on "opinion/perception". Published annually by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom. Here's more.
The parameters that are evaluated include the level of pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legal framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
The RWB report blamed physical violence against journalists like Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru in September 2017, as the key reason behind India's low ranking. PCI Chairman Justice (retd) CK Prasad said the PCI had written to the RWB a number of times since 2015 to understand how the index was prepared but hadn't received any reply.
Prasad said the rankings were "reportedly" based partly on a questionnaire sent to the partner organization of the RWB, its correspondents around the world, and journalists, researchers, jurists, and human right activists. Prasad said the PCI had earlier communicated to the RWB that the rankings were not based on statistical data, but "based on opinion or perception of an individual or group of individuals".
In order to understand the gravity of the matter, the Chairman of the Council had written a letter, dated September 22, 2015, to the RWB and desires to know the inputs which weighed in ranking of the country in the index so that remedial steps, if needed, can be taken to smoothen the functioning of the media. India was ranked 140 in 2014.
"The chairman is further of the opinion that a structured discussion on the issue with your (RSF) representative and the members of the Council would be helpful in achieving the objective," the letter read. Letters were also sent to the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) in October and December in 2015, seeking their response to the Press Council of India's queries.
PCI again wrote a letter to RWB in early 2016, saying the council was of the opinion that the World Freedom Index rankings "could either be on basis of statistical data or perception." "If the ranking is on basis of statistical data, the council requests you to share it with us, so as to enable us to take remedial measures," the letter said.
"The council is constrained to communicate that if no data is shared, it shall have to come to the conclusion that India's ranking in World Freedom Index is based on perception and is not supported by any verifiable data," the letter read.