World Press Freedom Index 2022

India ranks 150 out of 180 participating countries

140
press
British journalist Benjamin Horniman was condemned by colonialists and deported from the country when he exposed the widespread malpractices of the Imperialist government and supported India's freedom struggle. Photo Wikipedia

According to the latest statistics released by international NGO Reporters Without Borders (RWB), India’s press freedom rank has dropped down from 142 in 2021 to 150 in 2022. This year, press freedom in 180 countries was tracked by Reporters Sans Frontieres. With each Press Freedom Day, celebrated on 3 May, India is faring worse on the statistical indicator.

Even though freedom of expression is a fundamental right in the Indian constitution, the nation continues to struggle with violence against journalists. India boasts of a vast media landscape with more than 1,00,000 daily and weekly newspapers and 380 news channels. Bennett Coleman (Times Group), HT Media, The Hindu Group, Anandabazar Patrika, Lokmat, Malayala Manorama, and Network 18 are some of the prominent national and regional media houses. 

Speaking up against the current government proves too costly for Indian journalists who are then subjected to outright harassment by fundamental nationalists. Most recently journalists Rana Ayyub and Aakar Patel were denied overseas travel, which was later allowed after the concerned journalists appealed to the country’s judiciary.

Relentless campaigns including death and rape threats have been instigated to silence Ayyub on charges of defaming Hindus. The ongoing harassment began when Ayyub self-published her book on the 2002 Gujarat riots Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up and have continued ever since. 

Back in the day, British journalist Benjamin Horniman was condemned by colonialists and deported from the country when he exposed the widespread malpractices of the Imperialist government and supported India’s freedom struggle. His name is synonymous with reportage on the role played by General Dyer on one of the darkest days in Indian history, 13 April 1919, the day of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in which 379 people reportedly lost their lives. He did not even spare the British viceroys, prime ministers, and other senior officials and reported freely on the atrocities committed by them.

Barkha Dutt is another name that comes to mind for her fearless war reporting on the 1999 Kargil dispute between India and Pakistan, and most recently for exposing the plight of the Indian migrant workers during the Coronavirus pandemic. Her book To Hell and Back: Humans of Covid investigates the migrant exodus and the impact of pandemic-induced lockdowns on the humans dominating the fringes of Indian society.

A common thread binds these fearless and relentless souls – that of upholding the freedom of their pens, and the silent determination to go on despite the obstacles the world throws in their way. Democracy is strengthened by its freedom to question every concept and every entity in power. A strong nation has historically always had free and open media. India, unfortunately, believes curtailing its freedom may be a solution to suppress agitation against fascism and xenophobia that it systematically subjects its citizens to.

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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