Modi named among 37 ‘Predators of Press Freedom’ by Reporters Without Borders
RSF noted that Modi has “close ties with billionaire businessmen who own vast media empires” which have covered his divisive speeches and propagated his nationalist-populist ideology
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the 37 heads of governments that have been identified as ‘predators of press freedom’ by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
RSF noted that Modi has “close ties with billionaire businessmen who own vast media empires” which have covered his “extremely divisive and derogatory” speeches and propagated his nationalist-populist ideology.
The 37 people on the list include Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, Myanmar’s Min Aung Hlaing, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s Ali Khamenei, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko.
According to RSF, they “trample on press freedom by creating a censorship apparatus, jailing journalists arbitrarily or inciting violence against them when they don’t have blood on their hands because they have directly or indirectly pushed for journalists to be murdered.” The list has mentioned how each of these ‘predators’ goes after journalists, who their ‘favourite targets’ are, and noted their public speeches where they’ve justified these.
RSF has published this list after a gap of five years. Out of the 37 people featured, 13 are from the Asia-Pacific region, 17 are new entrants, seven have been constant on the list since it was first published in 2001. The list also features two women, Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina and Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam. RSF has compiled a file of their ‘predatory methods’.
RSF noted that Modi has been a “predator since taking office” in 2014 and his methods are ‘national populism and disinformation’. His favorite targets are ‘sickulars’ and ‘presstitutes’.
RSF said that Modi experimented with news and information control methods during his time as Gujarat CM, and then deployed these as the PM. His ‘leading weapon’ is flooding the media with speeches of his ‘national-populist ideology’.
The organisation noted that since the PM is on close terms with these media-owners, the journalists are aware of the risk of criticising the government, and anyway, Modi’s ‘extremely divisive and derogatory speeches’ help the media houses ‘achieve record audience levels’.
Modi has an online army of trolls or ‘yodha’, who wage online hate wars against journalists. The note mentioned the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017, and described her as a victim of Hindutva. Similarly, women journalists like Rana Ayyub and Barkha Dutt have received threats of gang-rapes and attacks.
The organisation thinks that ‘all that is left for Modi is to neutralise the media outlets and journalists that question his divisive methods’. He already uses charges like sedition for that.
RSF was also critical of the “absurd charges” of “criminal conspiracy” against The Wire, Twitter and journalists against the attack on a elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad.