India has dropped two ranks in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, which NGO Transparency International released on Wednesday. From the 79th slot in 2016, India now stands at 81.

Transparency International ranks countries on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) based on their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector. While India dropped two notches in the 2017 rankings, its score remained 40 – Transparency International scored India 38 in 2015 and 36 in 2013.

After ranking 180 countries and territories for the 2017 index, the NGO found that more than two-thirds showed signs of high corruption, with a score of below 50. The average score of 43 shows that India fared below average in the corruption perceptions index.

New Zealand and Denmark were ranked the highest with scores of 89 and 88. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia were the bottom three with scores of 14, 12 and 9. The Western European region performed the best, with an average score of 66, while Sub-Saharan Africa (average score: 32) as well as Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score: 34) fared the worst.

Source: Transparency International

Threats to the media and NGOs

“The results indicate that countries with the least protection for the press and non-governmental organisations also tend to have the worst rates of corruption,” Transparency International said. “Every week, at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt.”

The report compiles data from the Committee to Protect Journalists. An analysis found that in the past six years, more than nine out of 10 journalists were killed in countries with a score of 45 or less on the index.

Here, it may be noted that in the past two years, there has been a rise in the number of attacks on journalists and crackdown on the media in India. Journalist and social activist Gauri Lankesh’s murder in Bengaluru in September 2017 had triggered countrywide protests.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, too, has been taking measures against thousands of NGOs that receive funds from abroad and cancelling their licences for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. NGOs and activists have claimed the government was using this tactic to suppress dissenting voices.

“No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption,” said Transparency International Managing Director Patricia Moreira. “Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up.”

Transparency International also found a link to show that “countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption”. It analysed the relationship between corruption levels and “the freedom with which civic organisations are able to operate and influence public policy”.

“Smear campaigns, harassment, lawsuits and bureaucratic red tape are all tools used by certain governments in an effort to quiet those who drive anti-corruption efforts,” said Moreira. “We’re calling on those governments that hide behind restrictive laws to roll them back immediately and allow for greater civic participation.”