Free speech and media freedom took a hit across the country in 2017, The Hoot reported on Friday. In its “The Indian Freedom Report: Media freedom and freedom of expression in 2017”, it said 11 journalists were killed in 2017. While two murders each were reported from Haryana, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh, states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab saw one each.
Of these 11 murders, only three cases were found to be linked to their work. These three include Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her Bengaluru home on September 5, and two other journalists – Santanu Bhowmick and Sudip Datta Bhaumik – in Tripura. More than 50 journalists faced attacks and threats, while 27 were either detained or arrested for defamation, sedition and internet-related crimes.
When it comes to free speech and media freedom, Sikkim is the most trouble-free state in the country, while the media in Kashmir saw most restrictions. Internet was shut down 40 times in the Valley in 2017. Karnataka, on the other hand, had the highest number of state actions for internet and social media-related incidents.
Eleven cases of defamation were reported from Delhi. Maharashtra had the highest number (19) of defamation cases, while journalists in Andhra Pradesh were either attacked or threatened the most number of times. In Tamil Nadu, the number of defamation cases dropped drastically after former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha’s death in December 2016.
The major perpetrators were found to be the police, politicians, political workers, right-wing activists and other non-state actors. While the police turned out to be the perpetrator in 13 cases, politicians and party workers were the attackers in 10 instances. Members of right-wing organisations were found to be involved in three cases.
The police, politicians and their henchmen were found to attack camerapersons and stringers more. “It is always stringers who are vulnerable to attacks”, Krishnanjeneyulu, President of the Andhra Pradesh Journalists’ Forum, told The Hoot. The forum gets about 20 complaints of threats, attacks and abuse annually from media personnel.