Journalists in India face physical violence, censorship, legal harassment, and arrests, according to data collected by IPI on press freedom violations in India between April and September of 2022.
IPI identified 83 press freedom violations in India during this six-month monitoring period, as the alarming deterioration of press freedom since the nationalist conservative Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 continues. Over the past eight years, the Modi government and BJP supporters have attempted to silence independent media through attacks and repressive laws, often targeting the Muslim minority.
According to IPI data, the majority of press freedom violations during this period were related to online censorship and internet and communications shutdowns. The Indian government is responsible for ordering the highest number of network shutdowns in the world. During this monitoring period, authorities ordered the suspension of internet and mobile services more than a dozen times in Kashmir, a region that previously experienced one of the longest documented communication shutdowns on record, lasting 552 days. Outside Kashmir, the government suspended mobile and internet services multiple times, including in Manipur where the government ordered a shutdown for five days in August in order to quell online “rumour-mongering,” citing section 144 of India’s Criminal Procedure Code.
In April, the government banned 22 YouTube channels, citing breaches of national security under the 2021 IT law that gives the government sweeping powers to take down online content. In June, Twitter complied with a government demand to remove a tweet that journalist Rana Ayyub had posted months earlier, also based on an alleged violation of the IT Act. In May, Free Press Kashmir, an independent online weekly that has been the target of intense government harassment, was suspended from Instagram for “being under the age of 13”.
Twenty journalists were arrested between April and September 2022, according to IPI monitoring data, often on criminal charges. Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah faced multiple arrests under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which is part of a broader pattern of legal harassment and intimidation of independent journalists in Kashmir.
At least 18 journalists faced physical attacks and violence during this monitoring period, with cases involving both state and non-state actors. There were multiple cases of journalists being violently beaten while in police custody. In May 2022, journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto was shot dead by while walking near his home in the village of Sakho in the Begusarai district of India.
IPI monitors and collects data on press freedom violations in India as part of an ongoing cross-border project that brings together partner media outlets in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal to create public awareness about attacks on journalists and highlight the erosion of press freedom across South Asia.