Indian government officials bully critical media: US human rights report

Indian newspapers stacked at a vendor in Bangalore | PTI/AP file photo

Government officials at local and national levels in India have been implicated in “bullying” critical media outlets through physical harassment and attacks, a US human rights report noted on Tuesday.

“The independent media was active and generally expressed a wide variety of views,” said the India section of the 2021 National Report on Human Rights Practices released by the State Department under the mandate of the Congress.

“Journalists and NGOs reported that government officials at local and national levels were involved in intimidating critical media outlets through physical harassment and attacks, pressuring owners, targeting sponsors, encouraging frivolous lawsuits and, in some areas, blocking communication services, such as cell phones and the internet, and restricting freedom of movement,” he said.

NGOs in India have alleged that criminal prosecutions and investigations have been used to intimidate journalists who criticize the government, he added.


India in the past has dismissed similar reports. The Indian government has asserted that India has well-established democratic practices and strong institutions to protect the rights of all.

The government has pointed out that the Indian Constitution provides adequate safeguards under various laws to ensure the protection of human rights. The State Department’s annual human rights report indicated that there were significant human rights issues, including credible reports of: unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial by the government or its agents; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials; and harsh and life-threatening conditions of detention.

The State Department says the Biden administration has placed human rights at the center of US domestic and foreign policy. The report paints a clear picture of where human rights and democracy are under threat. It highlights places where governments have unjustly imprisoned, tortured or even killed political opponents, activists, human rights defenders or journalists, including in Russia, China, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria . The report documents the abuses of peaceful protests demanding democracy and basic freedoms in countries including Burma, Belarus, Cuba, Hong Kong and Sudan. In the India section of the report, the State Department indicates that there have also been reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions by government authorities; political prisoners or detainees and alleged arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including violence, threats of violence or wrongful arrests or prosecutions of journalists.

The State Department, in its report, alleges that criminal defamation laws have been used to prosecute social media speech; restrictions on internet freedom; overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding or operation of non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations.

Refoulement of refugees; serious government corruption; government harassment of national and international human rights organizations; and lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence are some of the other prominent human rights violations in India in 2021.

According to the report, other human rights violations in India included crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups because of their religious affiliation, social status, sexual orientation or ethnicity. their gender identity; and forced and compulsory labor, including child labor and debt bondage.

“Terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern states and areas affected by Maoist terrorism have committed serious abuses, including killing and torture of members of the armed forces, police, government officials and civilians, abductions, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story has no editing by federal government staff and is published automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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