• According to a report a record number of journalists were imprisoned during 2020.
  • This report is published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide.

More about Report

  • The overall number of jailed journalists in 2020 is at record high of 272.
  • Turkey remains the world’s worst offender against press freedom with at least 68 journalists imprisoned for anti-state charges. At least 25 journalists are in prison in Egypt.
  • There are dozens of reporters missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa, including several held by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
  • Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, authoritarian leaders tried to control reporting by arresting journalists.

Threats to Freedom of Press

    • The retention of archaic colonial laws – There are several sections in the Indian Penal Code that are widely used (and abused) against journalists and to ban works of art, films, and books.
      • These include Section 153 (“Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot”); Section 153A (“Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.,
      • Section 124A, the sedition clause (“Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life”).
    • Imperfections in our judicial system- Our lower courts in particular are too quick and too eager to entertain petitions seeking action against journalist. These petitions tend to be frivolous, or without substance, or politically motivated, and in perhaps 99.9% of the cases should be thrown out.
    • Rise and further rise of identity politics– Writings of journalists has become increasingly captive to the ease with which a community, any community at all, can complain that its sentiments, any sentiments, are hurt or offended by it.


  • Classic example is the banning of Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses in 1988.
  • The behavior of the police force – Even when courts take the side of writers and artists, the police generally side with the political influencer who harass them.


  • The pusillanimity or more often the mendacity of politicians– Indeed, no major or minor Indian politician, as well as no major or minor Indian political party, has ever supported writers, artists or film-makers against thugs and bigots.
  • The dependence of the media on government advertisements- This is especially acute in the regional and sub-regional press. For example, a Kannada paper published out of Dharwad would depend heavily on revenue from the Karnataka Government’s advertisements for tenders, jobs, and various development schemes. It is therefore unlikely that this newspaper will be fearless in its criticism of the state government’s failures.
  • The dependence of media on commercial advertisements – This is especially pertinent in the case of English-language newspapers and television channels that cater to the affluent middle-class. Companies that make products that have damaging side-effects are rarely criticised for fear that they will stop providing ads. Indeed, several major industrial houses have pulled ads from magazines or channels when they have run stories critical of their companies.

Importance of Free Media


  • Freedom of expression is a foundation for many other rights – An effective media also depends on the legal basis that freedom of expression gives the right to function and report freely, sometimes critically, without threat or fear of punishment.


    • A free press helps inform the public – Knowledge is power. In print, on line, or on TV or radio: without a free exchange of information, people can’t be fully aware of what’s going on around them and so can’t meaningfully participate in their communities or democracies.


  • Informed voters = stronger democracies 
  • A democratic society hinges on the people being able to hold informed opinions and express them – both in voting booths and more broadly in their day-to-day lives. It’s important that people are able to ask tough questions of the people in power and find out about decisions which affect them and their fellow citizens.
  • Fairer elections = more, better democracy


      • Elections give huge amounts of power to individuals, parties and institutions, so it’s crucial that the media are able to report accurately and critique the work of people who hold office – even when it is unflattering.


  • Discovery of truth – 


      • It’s crucial to quality journalism to be able to ask difficult questions, follow interesting stories, query inconsistencies and report accurately on the issues. By dedicating time, energy and skill to finding out what’s going on in the world around us, a free press is able to bring important information out into the public arena.


  • An independent press can hold powerful interests to account –


      • Independent reporting shines a light on sometimes-hidden topics and provides crucial checks and balances on powerful people and institutions.
      • Public attention creates scrutiny and is a disincentive for corruption or human rights abuses. The truths that quality investigative journalism uncovers can topple governments, alter international policies, and improve human rights standards internationally.


  • Marginalised and minority issues heard 


    • Marginalised and minority voices are, by definition, more likely to be left out of mainstream discussions. Freedom of expression guarantees individuals and groups the right to tell their own stories, without censorship or fear of attacks. 
    • Freedom of expression helps a wide variety of marginalised causes and voices to be heard: from workers’ rights to women’s rights, disabled or LGBTI communities, ethnic and religious minorities, economically disadvantaged groups, age groups, and many more.

Press Freedom in India:


  • In 1950, the Supreme Court in Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras observed that freedom of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations.


  • The Constitution, the supreme law of the land, guarantees freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, which deals with ‘Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
  • Freedom of press is not expressly protected by Indian legal system but it is impliedly protected under article 19(1) (a) of the constitution, which states – “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”.
  • However, Freedom of press is also not absolute. A law could impose only those restrictions on the exercise of this right, it faces certain restrictions under article 19(2), which is as follows-
  • Matters related to interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

Way forward 

  • In democracy, the Government cannot function unless the people are well informed and free to participate in public issues by having the widest choice of alternative solutions of the problems that arise. Articles and news are published in the press from time to time to expose the weaknesses of the governments. The daily newspaper and the daily news on electronic media are practically the only material which most people read and watch. 
  • The people can, therefore, be given the full scope for thought and discussion on public matter, if only the newspapers and electronic media are freely allowed to represent different points of views, including those of the opposition, without any control from the Government. 
    • The following suggestions are offered in this connection:
    • Freedom of press may be inserted as a specific fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
    • Parameters of freedom of press should be clearly earmarked.
    • Information must be available at an affordable cost within specified, definite and reasonable time-limits.
    • Free press should not violate right to privacy of an individual.
    • Free press must be law enforcing and preventive of crime.
    • Rule of law must be followed by the free press.
    • Influence through free press upon the judiciary should not be exercised.

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