It is very perilous for any democratic country to change the meaning of freedom in a negative way but what is even more fatal is when the people of the country are not aware of the changing ways of freedom. It is the responsibility of the media to inform the citizens, but I feel that the media has been controlled by the government, due to which the information has been automatically limited.
Recently, a non-governmental organization ‘Freedom House’ in the US, released a report which said that India is no longer a free country but a “partly free” country. The report was made on the basis of several criteria, including standards such as press freedom, judicial freedom, civil liberties, political rights, and so on. The Freedom House report reveals India’s picture that India’s media and other independent organizations are supposedly unable to do under the pressure of the Modi government.
This report was made on the basis of incidents that happened in 2020, which shows to me that even during the Coronavirus era, the Modi government, along with the Supreme Court, took several decisions in an ‘autocratic’ manner and conspired to suppress opposition voices in the country.
In recent years, there has been an unlimited increase in cases like treason and sedition in the country, such charges have been levied on a large number of people. A repeated pattern can be seen in most cases.
According to a report by the Varieties of Democracies (V-Dem) Institute, 7,000 people have been charged with treason since the BJP came to power, most of whom are its critics. There are many students and activists who are facing the case of UAPA, including Sharjil Imam, Umar Khalid, Varvara Rao, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson.
The farmers of the country have also been arrested under the UAPA after the Red Fort incident of 26 January, which can be clearly said that the government is not only hiding its failure but also crushing the voices standing in the protests.
Sweden’s Varieties of Democracies (V-Dem) Institute has expressed concern over the state of democracy in India, saying that democracy has weakened there. The 2021 report states that ‘electoral totalitarianism‘ is emerging in India, it is equal to Pakistan in terms of sentencing and worse than Nepal and Bangladesh.
The report talks about a particular pattern, according to the report, first, the media is controlled and the academic world is drawn. Along with this, in order to increase polarization, political opponents are abused and propagated using governmental means. After all this, the foundation of democracy – elections and institutions are hurt.
According to V-Dem, India is a country with electoral autocracy, this conclusion vindicates Bertrand Russell’s statement in which he said that,” Democracy; the fools have a right to vote. Dictatorship; the fools have a right to rule.”
A common man subscribes to newspapers and news channels for information from his limited income, but they are unaware that they are being polarized.
People say that robots are slowly replacing humans due to technology, but they do not know that the media in India is establishing humans as robots which are driven by specific ideology or group. The propaganda of hatred is being spread indirectly through newspapers and news channels, the common man is being implicated in it.
Most newspapers in India, which have access to the common man, only show news of particular men, but take money from the common man, who thinks ten times even before taking a toy for children. It is a different matter that he does not think even once while giving the subscription payment because he feels that this medium is providing him news and information.
I feel that the Indian government’s actions had already led to India being ranked 142 in the Global Press Freedom Index, but now the Modi government is also moving towards regulating digital media and its content. The Modi government has also passed guidelines for digital media content, which is set to have a negative impact on alternative media.
The biggest example of pressing down on the voices of the alternative media came when Mandeep Poonia and Dharmendra Singh, journalists covering the farmers’ protest, were arrested by the police (which comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs). In January 2021, cases including UAPA and sedition were filed against 16 journalists. With five arrests in January, this year has already witnessed the highest number of arrests of journalists since 1992 in India, according to the CPJ.
According to The Hindu, India’s score of 71 on the citizens’ political rights and civil liberties indicator was relatively high. However, the country’s press freedom index score of 45.33 was relatively low. In India, I strongly feel that the freedom of journalists seems to be more curtailed than the freedom of citizens.
To me, it feels like the news channels are under orders to reduce the coverage of the farmers’ protest till the Bengal elections. It can be said that the journalist has become a puppet who dances at the behest of the government. There is no doubt that practising journalism in India is a risky job, and the government has done a long process of ruining the democratic structure by misusing the judiciary and the media.