Ahead of Modi visit, journalists’ group urges US to press India on media crackdown

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The Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday called on the US government to urge India to end a media crackdown and release six detained journalists.

A statement from CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg ahead of a state visit to Washington next week by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there had been an increasing crackdown on India’s media since he came to power in 2014.

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“Journalists critical of the government and the BJP party have been jailed, harassed, and surveilled in retaliation for their work,” Ginsberg said.

“India is the world’s largest democracy, and it needs to live up to that by ensuring a free and independent media – and we expect the United States to make this a core element of discussions.”

The group said Washington should urge India to release six journalists – Aasif Sultan, Gautam Navlakha, Sajad Gul, Fahad Shah, Rupesh Kumar Singh, and Irfan Mehraj – who it said were detained in retaliation for their work under draconian security laws.

It highlighted harassment of domestic and foreign media, including through raids and retaliatory income tax investigations launched into critical news outlets.

The statement noted a raid by tax authorities in February on the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai after the government censored a documentary on Modi by the broadcaster.

In recent years, the CPJ said, foreign correspondents had reported increasing visa uncertainties, restricted access to several areas, including Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, and threats of deportation in retaliation for critical reporting.

The CPJ also cited a media crackdown in Kashmir, including the use of preventative detention, terrorism and criminal cases, travel bans and raids.

CPJ said at least 62 journalists have been killed in India in connection with their work since 1992 and India ranked 11th on CPJ’s 2022 impunity index, with unsolved cases of at least 20 journalists killed in the decade to August last year.

India’s Washington embassy and the US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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