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The Double Siege - News Media in the Time of Covid-19

The country-wide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and attendant issues has led to major violations of civil liberties and human rights in India. While some restrictions on rights may have been necessitated by the nature of the pandemic, we believe that a large number of violations were entirely excessive, arbitrary and totally avoidable. The impact of this curtailment of rights and of civil liberties has been felt across all sectors including the economy, education, health, media, prisons, employment, migrant workers, women, domestic workers, sex workers, prisoners and their access to justice etc.

Five months after, it has become palpably clear that the lockdown has also been used by the Government to push through undemocratic means laws and policies which are against the people.

In this context, PUCL Maharashtra has put together ‘Lockdown on Civil Liberties’, a series of reports of the impact on these restrictions on various segments. While some of the reports focus on conditions in Maharashtra, others deal with a pan-India situation. “The Double Siege: News Media in the Time of COVID-19” is the second in the series. This report focuses on the state of the news media in India and the curb on information. Freedom of the press seems to be under a double siege: from without by the State and its thriving band of stormtroopers and from within by the owners of private media.

This report has been authored by Geeta Seshu with the help of many persons including Kabi, Mihir Desai, Sandhya Gokhale, Lara Jesani, Chayanika Shah, Venkatesh Narayanan and other members of PUCL (Maharashtra).

Finally, we thank Shrujuna Niranjani Sridhar for the cover page design.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction................................................ 1

I The Siege Without................................... 4

State Regulations......................................................... 4

Public's Right to Information......................................... 8

Crackdown on Media covering lockdown..................... 9

Censorious climate affects all news............................. 16

Chinese Apps banned: national security...................... 17

Kashmir: Continuing Intimidation and Curtailment of Internet Access..................................... 18

Censorship of Environmental campaigns.................... 19

Media policy and the advertising carrot........................ 20

II The Siege Within.................................... 23

Partisan Media............................................................. 23

Palghar lynching.......................................................... 24

Journalists: The new precarity..................................... 26

Legal challenges.......................................................... 29

III Conclusion............................................. 31

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Tags: Covid-19