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Clampdown on media freedom during pandemic: Reporters Without Borders

Journalists face difficulties to report sensitive stories in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

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NEW DELHI: International non-profit Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has claimed in its annual World Press Freedom Index report that media freedom has deteriorated during the Covid2019 pandemic. 

The NGO, which works to safeguard the right to information, made this conclusion after analysing and evaluating the current state of journalism in 180 countries. The report stated that 73 per cent of the world's nations have serious issues when it comes to media freedom. 

According to the report, several countries have used the pandemic as “grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field.”

The Index, which measures curbs on access to information and obstacles to news coverage, highlighted that journalism is “totally blocked or seriously impeded” in 73 nations and “constrained” in 59 others. 

The data indicates that journalists are finding it hard to conduct an investigation and report sensitive stories in Asia, Middle East, and Europe. 

"Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation. Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological, and, sometimes, even cultural factors. In response to the virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms, and via social media, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on a diverse range of established facts," said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire. 

The report also noted that public mistrust towards journalists has also increased dramatically. 59 per cent of the respondents in 28 countries claimed that journalists are intentionally publishing news despite knowing the fact that news is factually incorrect. 

In India, which ranked 142nd on the Index, the government has used laws to silence critics and protesters.

“Journalists who dare to criticise the government are branded as ‘anti-state,’ ‘anti-national’ or even ‘pro-terrorist’ by supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” said the RSF. “This exposes them to public condemnation in the form of extremely violent social media hate campaigns that include calls for them to be killed, especially if they are women.”

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