I speak as the secretary of the National Union of Journalists parliamentary group, but, like others, also as a friend of India, not just because of my constituents who originate from India but because of my own family ties. As a firm and true friend, we have to be honest with our friends in India.
As has been said, India is the largest democracy on the planet, and democracy needs the firm foundation of a free press and media. Tragically, democracy is being undermined because there are those that seek to prevent the operation of a free press and media. It is unfortunate that it is those in government who are part of the process of undermining that free press. Regrettably, as reported by the International Federation of Journalists and others, eight journalists have been killed over the last 12 months. The Government use false arrests and legal actions to deter and intimidate. Journalists are arrested on trumped up charges of sedition, incitement or illegal demonstration. We have even seen the tax authorities in India used against media operations. As has been mentioned, there has also been suppression of the internet and access to social media.
The farmers’ protests have excited the latest round of harassment of journalists, and now it seems that simply reporting the actions of the state and the police in violently attacking protesters is somehow an illegal act. Journalists are continuously being targeted by arrests and intimidation, and falsely accused of criminal charges. Tragically, the political leadership feels it can act with impunity.
We understand that Prime Minister is seeking to visit India in due course. May I suggest that before that the Government call out the actions of the Modi Administration and what they are doing to undermine press freedom? When the Prime Minister visits India, he should meet the National Union of Journalists (India), as well as the International Federation of Journalists, to find out the exact truth of what is happening there. Through the Prime Minister, the Government should demand that the intimidation ends and that the freedom of press and media is firmly guaranteed for the future. That is what a true friend advises.