According to the Reporters sans frontières – Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index – 2006, India is at 105 out of 168 countries listed.
Yemen (149th) slipped four places, mainly because of the arrest of several journalists and closure of newspapers that reprinted the cartoons. Journalists were harassed for the same reason in Algeria (126th), Jordan (109th), Indonesia (103rd) and India (105th).
Some trouble spots identified here. Needless to say the levels of conflict in a country have a negative influence on the rank, it means the government gets more tight fisted about what gets printed.
Things are much the same in Sri Lanka, which ranked 51st in 2002, when there was peace, but has now sunk to 141st because fighting between government and rebel forces has resumed in earnest. Dozens of Tamil journalists have been physically attacked after being accused by one side or the other of being biased against them.
As far as Nepal goes, the political turmoil which resulted in clamping down on the press, and then consequent freedom of expression means the country is at 159. Pakistan is at 157. Bangladesh is at 137. It’s pretty interesting that South Asia (excluding India) is pretty much in the same range (137 to 159).
It is based solely on events between 1 September 2005 and 1 September 2006. It does not look at human rights violations in general, just press freedom violations.
Reporters Without Borders compiled a questionnaire with 50 criteria for assessing the state of press freedom in each country. It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment).
While it is nice to note that India’s rank has improved over the last three to four years, it might have something to do with the situation worsening in some countries, as opposed to the situation improving within a country. Further, the absolute rank for countries may be higher as some countries appear to share the score.
I wonder if there is a similar index for comparing Press Freedom in different states and regions. It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between degree of economic freedom, level of conflict and freedom of press. Further, one wonders how many instances of violation actually get reported in many parts of India. Plus, can one actually measure arm-twisting of the Media? What about instances of corruption within Media at the level of institutions, where decisions are taken about not reporting events, manipulating reports etc. and this knowledge may never reach the public domain anyway.