At least six journalists were killed, another 108 attacked while 13 media houses were targeted in India in 2021 while the spotlight on the denial of media freedom continued to be on occupied Jammu and Kashmir where journalists often found themselves summoned to police stations, FIRs registered against them, their houses raided, being manhandled and beaten by security forces, according to a new report.
The India Press Freedom Report 2021 by the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) said that occupied Kashmir and Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Tripura topped the list of areas across the country where journalists and media houses were targeted last year.
Of the six journalists killed, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar reported two deaths each, while Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra reported the death of one journalist each. Eight female journalists faced arrest, summons and registration of First Information Reports (FIRs).
“The highest number of journalists/media organisations targeted was in [occupied] Jammu and Kashmir (25), followed by Uttar Pradesh (23); Madhya Pradesh (16); Tripura (15); Delhi (eight); Bihar (six); Assam (five); Haryana and Maharashtra (four each); Goa and Manipur (three each); Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal (two each); and Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Kerala (one each),” read the report.
“The widespread attacks on press freedom from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to Tripura are an indicator of the continuing deterioration of civic space in the country,” stated RRAG Director Suhas Chakma.
In 2021, at least 24 journalists were physically attacked, threatened, harassed, and obstructed from doing their work by public officials, including police, across the country, according to the report. Out of the 24 journalists, 17 were beaten by police.
Physical attacks on journalists by police were mainly reported from occupied Jammu and Kashmir. During the last year, FIRs against 44 journalists were registered, including in some cases, multiple FIRs against the same journalists in several states.
Uttar Pradesh reported the highest registration of FIRs with nine; followed by six each in Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir, and three in Bihar among others. Out of the 44 journalists, FIRs were filed against 21 journalists under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code relating to promoting enmity.
Earlier, a persecution watchdog had reported that a record 486 incidents of violence were witnessed against Indian Christians during 2021.
Christians make up only 2.3 percent of India’s over 1.3 billion population.
The United Christian Forum data showed an upward trend in violent incidents over the last few years but 2021 was termed as the “most violent year” in India’s history. The past two months witnessed over 100 incidents as if to warn the community during Christmas, it said.
The 486 incidents top the previous record of 328 incidents in 2019. They were also far more widespread than previously recorded with incidents reported in 20 states and two union territories.
A UCF press release said that violence against Christians has been increasing steadily since 2014 with 127 incidents in that year, 142 in 2015, 226 in 2016, 248 in 2017, 292 in 2018, 328 in 2019, and 279 in 2020.
“In almost all incidents reported across India, vigilante mobs composed of religious extremists have been seen to either barge into a prayer gathering or round up individuals that they believe are involved in forcible religious conversions,” says the UCF’s latest report