Freedom

The Freedom House annual survey report on political rights, civil liberties and freedom in general has raised concerns about setbacks for democracy around the world showing a modest decline from 2005. Statistically we are among the 3,004,990,000 people fortunate enough to live in a ‘free country’ not so comfortably placed in the midst of a host of ‘non-free’ and ‘partly-free’ countries like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

Before you bask in the glory of the success of Indian democracy often described as ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘flawed’ not without reasons best known to all of us, take a look at the status of press freedom in our country which shows up some interesting statistics. From a ‘free’ status for the print media and ‘partly free’ for the broadcast media in the 1990’s, thanks to high handedness of the state and central government, India is now among the countries having a ‘partly-free’ broadcast and print media.

Maybe the fact that foreign journalists are prohibited from doing live news broadcasts in India points to that direction. They have to seek permission 10 days in advance, which is ludicrous if someone wants to cover an occurence like the Mumbai blasts unless they are among the ones who planted the bomb. Or take the outrageous Broadcast Bill which some politicians are very keen to implement; that will allow ‘authorised officers‘ to inspect, search, seize and prosecute ‘violating’ television channels and other content providers.

India’s fight for freedom and democracy did not end on August 15, 1947. It only started.