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Modi’s War on the Press

Freedom of the press is the mortar that binds together a free society. If Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to de-institutionalize what used to be a dynamic and independent Fourth Estate persists, public confidence in the media will steadily decline, along with confidence in Indian democracy.

NEW DELHI – A flurry of assaults on freedom of the press in recent months has raised troubling questions about the state of India’s democracy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has long had a free and often raucous press. But the situation has changed dramatically since Modi’s government came to power in 2014.

In late January, police filed criminal charges – including sedition, which carries a life sentence – against eight journalists who covered a protest in Delhi that turned violent. Their crime: reporting the claims of a dead protester’s family that he had been shot and killed by the police. I face the same charges for having tweeted their claim when it was reported.

Six journalists and I (a Congress party MP) are accused of “misreporting” facts surrounding the death. We face charges in four states ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The publisher, editor, and executive editor of the investigative news magazine The Caravan face ten sedition cases in five states for reporting the story, and the magazine’s Twitter account was briefly suspended by government order.

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