BJP is vengeful of journalists: Speakers at US congressional briefing

The briefing titled 'India's crackdown on free speech' was organised by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).

Amid growing limitations on media freedom in the nation, Indian American Muslim Council organised a congressional briefing on “India’s Crackdown on Free Speech” on May 4. In the briefing, Indian journalists talked about how unsafe has India become for them and what happened to them when they tried to speak.

Noted Indian journalist and writer, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said at a briefing by IAMC that the Indian government (BJP) is intolerant and vengeful against critics and journalists.

“We have reached a stage where there are large sections of the government who believe that they can bludgeon the small section of the media that’s still trying to hold truth to power,” Thakurta said.

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“Journalists who ask questions are immediately branded as traitors [and] anti-nationals… we’ve seen the laws on defamation misused, we’ve seen law enforcement agencies – including the Income Tax Department [and] the Enforcement Directorate – becoming weapons to target those who are critical of the government,” he added.

India mirroring China’s dictatorship:

Adding to Thakurta’s arguments, the Director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Daniel Bastard said that the Indian government has begun mirroring China in its dictatorial treatment of journalists through harassment as well as forcing them into self-censorship.

He also said that no one wants to see India become a very strong dictatorship like China, but the situation is becoming more or less the same in some aspects. India’s aggressive attempts to silence and imprison Kashmiri media persons were similar to China’s treatment of Tibetan journalists.

Decline in Press Freedom Index:

The briefing mainly focused on India’s steep decline in the latest Press Freedom Index ranking by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which plunged from 142 in 2021 to 150 in 2022 among 180 countries.

The accompanying report lambasts India for “violence against journalists, the politically partisan media and the concentration of media ownership,” which “all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis.”

“We have received a lot of testimonies from journalists who were working for mainstream media who tell us there are many subjects that they don’t dare to tackle anymore. it’s safer for the journalists and [their] chief editors not to mention these embarrassing problems for the government,” said Bastard.

According to the RSF report, India’s record of press freedom is now so abysmal that it trails autocratic countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Nigeria. Even sheikhdoms and monarchies like UAE, Qatar and Jordan treat journalists better, according to the report.

IAMC’s condemnation of attack on Muslim journalists

In April, two Muslim journalists were attacked with Islamophobic slurs, called “jihadis,” had their phones and cameras snatched, had their footage deleted, and were pushed around.

Ali reported that had the police not intervened and removed them from the scene, they might have been lynched by the mob, which was growing increasingly agitated with the presence of Muslim journalists.

Article 14 reporter Arbab Ali and Hindustan Gazette reporter Meer Faisal were the journalist who was targeted. Ali reported that had the police not intervened and removed them from the scene, they might have been lynched by the mob, which was growing increasingly agitated with the presence of Muslim journalists

IAMC has called upon Delhi law enforcement to investigate the matter impartially and take strict action against all the organizers of Hindu Mahapanchayat and arrest those who assaulted and threatened to kill the journalists.

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