Report on Press Freedom in India 2017

Freedom of expression

The ‘India Freedom Report: Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression in 2017’ by The Hoot says that the last year saw 11 journalists murdered (three clearly for reasons connected to their work), 46 attacks on journalists and 27 arrests and cases filed by police. The state-wise review and report enumerates defamation, self-censorship and internet shut-down cases among other parameters in its examination of the climate of free speech in the country.

In September, Gauri Lankesh, editor of the weekly Lankesh Patrike, was shot dead at her residence in Bengaluru. Two journalists – Sudip Datta Bhaumik of Syandan Patrika and Santanu Bhowmick of news channel Din Raat – were killed while covering clashes between rival tribal associations in Bodhjung Nagar by a Tripura State Rifles trooper. It was a year in which two journalists were shot at point blank range and killed, and one was hacked to death as police stood by and did not stop the mob.

Journalists faced attacks from police and from politicians, including journalists injured during the violence following the arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Singh in August 2017. Television vans were set on fire while reporters and camera persons were injured in the clashes.

Andhra Pradesh saw the largest number of attacks on and threats to journalists and Maharashtra had the highest incidence of defamation with 19 cases in 2017, and the highest number of state actions for internet and social media related incidents was recorded in Karnataka. In Tamil Nadu, the number of defamation cases went down sharply to just seven. Delhi recorded a number of cases of defamation and instances of censorship and self-censorship.

State governments restricted media access to various events including the governments of Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Apart from censorship, the report also has a category called self-censorship, and 2017 had numerous examples including the Sahara-Birla papers, which most media houses did not cover, ‘perhaps because of the defamatory implications of reporting on this,’ the report says and other instances of either non-coverage or taking down stories from their websites included coverage of India falling three places in the international press freedom rankings in April last year based on an index of press freedom report by the global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The year also saw a huge rise in the number of internet shutdowns imposed in various states – 77 against 31 the previous year. A shutdown was imposed in every month last year, in at least one part of the country. The highest number of cases was in Jammu and Kashmir (40) followed by Rajasthan (11), Haryana (eight), Bihar (three), Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, West Bengal, Nagaland and Odisha (two each), and Telangana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Chandigarh (one each).
The Hoot is the only not-for-profit initiative in India which does independent media monitoring.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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