EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, on April 25, 2022. CPJ called on the EU to hold India to account for its recent media clampdown. (AP/Press Information Bureau)

CPJ calls on EU to hold India to account for media clampdown 

Brussels, July 13, 2022 – The Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday called on the European External Action Service to hold Indian authorities accountable for widespread and severe press freedom violations when they meet for the annual India-EU Human Rights Dialogue on Friday, July 15. 

“The dialogue should be an opportunity for the EU to raise press freedom abuses with the Indian government, led by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, statements from previous dialogues have been limited in scope,” said Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative.

“As India seeks to gloss over its abysmal press freedom record, the EU must unequivocally condemn its harsh crackdown on journalists and media organizations, and make clear, verifiable demands, including the release of arbitrarily detained journalists,” added Gibson. “The EU should question what type of relationship it is building if critical journalists in India and Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir cannot report without risking harassment, detention, abuse, or even death.” 

Gibson also called on the EU to press India for action on the following press freedom violations and attacks on journalists documented by CPJ:

  • Authorities’ use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law, to keep Kashmiri journalists Aasif Sultan, Fahad Shah, and Sajad Gul behind bars after they were granted court-ordered bail in separate cases.
  • Indian authorities’ use of politically motivated charges to imprison journalists and their denunciation of critical journalists as attackers of traditional Hindu values. In June 2022, Delhi police arrested outspoken Muslim journalist Mohammed Zubair, himself an advocate against hate speech and disinformation, for a satirical tweet. On July 12, 2022, the Uttar Pradesh police formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe six cases registered against Zubair in the state, according to news reports.
  • Full investigation into the deaths of five journalists killed in India because of their work in 2021 and prosecution of anyone implicated in the killings.

There are particular risks facing journalists from minority communities, including Muslims, when reporting on sectarian discrimination and violence. At least 20 female Muslim journalists were listed “for sale” in the notorious Bulli (derogatory slang for Muslim women) Bai (a female servant) app, according to CPJ research. A January 2022 investigation by The Wire found that female journalists and others were victims of online abuse through Tek Fog, an app said to be used as a propaganda tool by BJP-affiliated operatives.

CPJ’s 2021 annual prison census found that seven journalists were detained in India and Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir as of December 1, 2021, setting the country’s record for the highest number of detained journalists since at least 1992.