The government order to take Hindi news channel NDTV India off air for a day over its coverage of the Pathankot attack has again sparked the debate about press freedom in India. After NDTV India, the government has also ordered that an Assam-based news channel is taken off air for a day, following the recommendations of a high-level panel which felt it had “violated” programming guidelines on more than one occasion. And even though the situation can be improved a lot in India, we should also take note of the fact that press freedom is a lot worse in many other countries in the world.
Media freedom is lacking in India, however, to judge that situation properly, let’s take a look at media freedom in other countries.
Istanbul shut down around 20 TV and radio channels, including Kurdish channel Med-Nuçe, after a failed coup attempt was made by the army on 15 July this year. Media outlets, including international channels like CNN Turk, said they’d been forced off air, and social media experienced outages.
Around 90 journalists were put in jail, 2,500 scribes lost their jobs and arrest warrants were issued against hundreds of media workers since the failed coup attempt, according to European Federation of Journalists.
In September, Greece launched an auction for four private national television licenses, reducing the number from seven after a heated public debate on corruption in the financially troubled country, The Associated Press had reported. The opposition conservatives had accused Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government of market interference and attempting to exert state influence over private news media.
In July this year, China also shut down various online news portals and channels like Sina, Sohu, NetEase and iFeng. Why? Because they dared to publish independent reports instead of official statements, according to BBC.
The report also said that many Chinese news sites are prohibited from reporting on political and social issues themselves and instead have to rely on reports published by the official media like state news agency Xinhua.
In February 2015, Bahrain had suspended a satellite news channel called Alarab owned by a Saudi prince on the very first day of its broadcasting because the channel had not enough to combat “extremism and terrorism”, according to Reuters.
In Uzbekistan, a government crackdown forced more than a dozen foreign correspondents to flee abroad after they covered a massacre of antigovernment protesters in Andijan in May 2005. Reporters covering opposition to Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s recent re-election were jailed and charged with crimes such as “hooliganism.”
In November 2014, Saudi Arabia had shut down Wesal TV in Riyadh, accusing it of promoting sectarian violence.
In September 2014, an Egypt court ordered a state-run satellite company to stop broadcasting the local AlJazeera channel called AlJazeera Mubasher Misr. Egypt’s state-run news agency reported that the order came because the channel had allegedly broadcast “lies” about the 2013 coup which unseated Mohammed Morsi, according to Middle East Eye.
In 2010, the then Venezuelan government had taken six cable television channels, including RCTV International — openly opposed to the then President Hugo Chavez — off the air for allegedly breaking a law on trasmitting government material, according to BBC.
In September 2007, Bangladesh’s then first and only 24-hour news channel, CSB, had gone off air after a team of telecom regulators visited the office and suspended its frequency allocation, IANS had reported. The move was seen as a possible fallout of its telecasts of the 20-23 August 2007 demonstrations and violent clashes in Dhaka University and other campuses across the country, demanding an end to emergency rule at that time. In March 2007, the Bangladesh government had asked seven private television channels to stop broadcasting for alleged faulty inception.
The junta owns all daily newspapers and radio, along with the country’s three television channels. Media dare not hint at, let alone report on, antigovernment sentiments. Burma’s few privately owned publications must submit content to the Press Scrutiny Board for approval before publishing; censorship delays mean that none publishes on a daily basis. In 2005, the junta took control of Bagan Cybertech, Burma’s main Internet service and satellite-feed provider. Citizens have been arrested for listening to the BBC or Radio Free Asia in public. Entry visa requests by foreign journalists are usually turned down except when the government wants to showcase a political event.
Libya’s media are the most tightly controlled in the Arab world. The government owns and controls all print and broadcast media, an anachronism even by regional standards. The media dutifully reflect state policies and do not allow news or views critical of Qaddafi or the government. Satellite television and the Internet are available, but the government blocks undesirable political Web sites. The Internet is one of the few avenues for independent writers and journalists, but the risks are exceedingly high.
A lot of action has also been taken news websites and newspapers in many countries.
Written by Saket Sharma, with help from and multiple sources and websites.