Freedom after expression: censorship of the press and violence against journalists in India and Pakistan

Pakistan is low on the World Press Freedom Index, and this year India was just two points ahead with a drop in the ranking compared to 2017.
The climate of fear and intolerance, in Pakistan, has been exacerbated by enforced disappearances, attempted abductions, and legal action (or threat of) against journalists. While in India there is the whole sentiment of nationalism amongst mainstream media & it has become safer journalism.
Rana Ayyub & Ritu Kapur spoke about the current state of journalism in India, while Gul Bukhari & Taha Siddiqui shared their experience of working as a journalist in Pakistan in this panel discussion moderated by Aliya Salahuddin.
The panel started with a Gul Bukhari, a columnist with The Print. She shared her story of abduction. She is a Pakistani journalist who has openly criticized the military was briefly kidnapped by masked men in Lahore in 2018. She was freed after 4 hours of being abducted. Another panelist, Taha Siddiqui from Pakistan (now living in exile in Paris) shared his story of a kidnapping attempt. Both the stories pointed out a real-life threat to a journalist covering Pakistani military operations/political parties.
On the Indian side, Rana shared her story of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover-Up.  As an investigative journalist, she took up a project after her own heart: to conduct a lengthy sting operation aimed at snaring politicians and government officials of Gujarat and get them to spill the beans regarding the Gujarat riots of 2002. While Ritu Kapur, co-founder, and CEO of Quintillion Media questioned funding models of Indian Media Organizations & And how prime time debates are becoming self-censored.
Taha & Gul shared various ways in which media being censored in Pakistan which includes: (i) treason cases against journalists (ii) distribution of news not reaching some part of country (iii) internet shutdowns (iv) website banning (v) main-stream news organizations broadcasting fake news shared via WhatsApp & other social media platforms.
Ritu & Rana, shared the rising concern in India – media self-censoring the content & not asking the right questions to governments/influential people in India. Although the digital media like The Quint, Altnews, The Wire is asking the problematic & right questions to governments, it is resulting in online trolling of journalists labeling them anti-national media.
Aliya asked the question “How did the media react to what happened during the Pulwama attack in India?” to both journalists from India & Pakistan. Ritu thinks there were two types of media reporting during Pulwama attack in India. (i) Nationalism/Warmongering (ii)Media asking the government for proof.
Mainstream media became nationalist on both sides (India & Pakistan) and did not ask the right questions to their governments, the panel showcased their concern.
The panel discussed growing levels of scrutiny, pressure, and intimidation tactics on the press in both India and Pakistan have introduced a disturbing era of undeclared censorship from state and non-state actors in both countries.
More information about the panel discussion & recording is available at

Pratik Ghumade – volunteer press office IJF19