Three journalists in India face jail for sharing videos on Twitter . . .
Police in Uttar Pradesh, India, arrested three young men on June 15 for assaulting an elderly Muslim man after video of the assault was widely circulated on social media. However, the police also filed cases against three Indian journalists, including The Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub, the news portal The Wire, and Twitter for sharing unverified information that could spark communal tensions in the state. Several press organizations have condemned the police for their repressive actions against the journalists. The incident comes on the heels of the Indian government’s ongoing standoff with Twitter regarding control of information following the new IT rules established by the Indian government in February.
Journalists beaten, arrested in Pakistan, Bangladesh . . .
In neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, journalists are not faring any better. Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor, known for criticizing the military, was allegedly assaulted by agents of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) inside his home last month. Under successive governments, multiple Pakistani journalists have been assaulted, abducted, intimidated, and charged with sedition and treason for being critical of the government and/or military. Freedom Network has found that between 2013 and 2019 in Pakistan, at least 33 journalists were killed. In Bangladesh, leading female journalist Rozina Islam has been arrested on charges of espionage for outing the government’s alleged mismanagement of COVID-19. Released on bail following nationwide protests and international condemnation, Islam is just one among hundreds of journalists in the country who are facing charges by Bangladeshi authorities.
Censorship in South Asia . . .
These incidents point to an increase in censorship and control of information by South Asian governments. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh ranked near the bottom of Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2021, which tracks media independence, legislative frameworks, and journalists’ safety. India ranked 142nd, Pakistan 145th, and Bangladesh 152nd out of 180, while no South Asian country ranks above 65th. The Press Freedom Index paints a grim picture for the Asia Pacific as repressive legislation, coupled with creative ways to suppress dissent and control information, are more prominent now than ever. In eighth position, New Zealand tops the list of Asia Pacific economies, even above Canada, at 14th.
- Al Jazeera: Attack on Muslim man: India police charge journalists for tweets
- Human Rights Watch: UN: Stand with Bangladeshi journalists on Press Freedom Day
- Reporters Without Borders: RSF 2021 Index: Censorship and disinformation virus hits Asia-Pacific