Top journalist body condemns Modi’s Orwellian move to muzzle free press - IAMC
Free Press in India

Top journalist body condemns Modi’s Orwellian move to muzzle free press

The Editors Guild of India, the country’s most prominent and respected association of journalists, has slammed India’s Hindu nationalist administration’s bid to muzzle free speech by requiring websites to remove content that the government may arbitrarily rule as fake.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s increasingly authoritarian administration has announced its intention to authorize the Press Information Bureau (PIB), a government agency that is the lapdog of the powers-that-be, to “fact check” online content.

The government’s proposal would, in one stroke, bring censorship to not only Indian but also international news media that report on Indian affairs on their websites.

“Already multiple laws exist to deal with content that is found to be factually incorrect,” the Guild said in a statement released in New Delhi, India’s capital. “This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press…to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic.

“This [amendment] will stifle legitimate criticism of the government and will have an adverse impact on the ability of the press to hold governments to account, which is a vital role it plays in a democracy.”

In an Orwellian move, Modi’s administration set up a “fact checking” unit under the PIB nearly four years ago. It has frequently faced criticism for routinely denying any news article critical of the Modi administration, rather than fact-checking how the claims are false.

BJP leader in Madhya Pradesh threatens opposition party with extrajudicial demolitions

In a blatant disregard to the democratic electoral system, a minister from to the Hindu supremacist BJP has publicly threatened leaders of the opposition Congress party with demolitions if they don’t join the BJP ahead of the upcoming polls in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh state.

A video of the minister Mahendra Singh Sisodia threatening opposition leaders with extrajudicial “bulldozer action” has gone viral on social media. 

“In 2023 [when Assembly polls are scheduled in the state] too, the BJP will form a government in Madhya Pradesh…Mama’s bulldozer is ready.”

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is popularly known as “mama,” or uncle.

There is no legal provision to destroy the property of anyone accused of an offense, leave alone of people convicted of crimes, including murder. But BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states have demolished or threatened to demolish homes, businesses and places of worship, with Muslims facing the worst acts of demolitions. This illegal, criminal and extrajudicial act of demolitions has come to be called “bulldozer justice.”

Extremist organization arms hundreds of Hindus with tridents

In a move to fuel further hatred towards and encourage violence against Muslims among India’s Hindus, a Hindu extremist organization, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), distributed tridents among 150 Hindu supremacists during an event in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh state.

Hindu supremacist organizations have been offering violent training sessions across the nation as calls for the genocide of Muslims grow increasingly common. Oath-taking events, during which Hindu extremists swear to fight for a Hindu state, have also grown commonplace.

In 2021 in Uttar Pradesh, Hindu youth were indoctrinated into the Hindu supremacist ideology through multiple oath-taking events. In an event reminiscent of the Hitler Youth, schoolchildren swore “to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra (nation).” 

Similar events have also occurred in Nagpur and Delhi. Suresh Chavhanke, editor-in-chief of a prominent Indian news channel, posted a video of himself administering an oath to a group of people, using genocidal phrases: “We will fight for this, die for this, and if required, kill for this.”