Key Developments

  • Press is stifled by state-employed surveillance tactics.

  • Rampant attacks against journalists continue, including by law enforcement.

Despite India's rising global profile, authorities used both antiquated and advanced techniques to threaten press freedom. One journalist remained imprisoned on anti-state charges, while the government implemented a surveillance system designed to monitor citizens' phone calls, text messages, and Internet communication, making it difficult for journalists to communicate privately with sources. India ranked second, behind only the United States, in the number of requests for user data made to Facebook and Google. Several journalists were attacked over the year, while at least two said they were assaulted by police. A female photojournalist was gang-raped while on assignment in Mumbai. In March, reporter Naveen Soorinje, who was imprisoned for documenting an assault in Karnataka, was released on bail, but the charges against him remained. Three journalists were killed in direct relation to their work, while at least three other journalist killings this year remain unsolved.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of dynamically-generated graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2013.]

Days in prison: 136

Naveen Soorinje, a reporter for the TV channel Kasturi Newz 24, was jailed after documenting an assault on a group of men and women in Karnataka state. Police later filed charges against Soorinje, accusing him of participating in the attacks.

Timeline of events:

July 28, 2012
Soorinje documents an assault on young women and men by right-wing Hindu extremists in Karnataka.

November 7, 2012
Police arrest Soorinje and charge him with more than a dozen offenses, including rioting, assault and rioting with deadly weapons, and "using criminal force on women with the intention of outraging their modesty."

November 27, 2012
A Mangalore court denies Soorinje's request for bail.

December 26, 2012
The Karnataka High Court denies Soorinje's request for bail.

January 31, 2013
The Karnataka state cabinet votes to withdraw charges against Soorinje, but never follows through.

February 6, 2013
A lawyer challenges the state cabinet's vote to withdraw charges against Soorinje.

March 18, 2013
The Karnataka High Court grants him bail.

March 23, 2013
Soorinje is released.

June 13, 2013
Newly elected state government unanimously votes to withdraw charges against Soorinje. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah promises to approve the decision, but had not done so in late year.

Killed in 2013: 3

2013 marked the highest number of journalist fatalities in the last five years. At least three journalists were killed in India this year in direct relation to their work. At least three other journalist killings remain unsolved, with police investigations unable to identify the motives or masterminds.

In requests to Facebook and Google: 2nd

Trailing only the United States in online demands, the Indian government made 3,245 requests for user data to Facebook in the first half of 2013, according to Facebook's first-ever Global Government Requests report. Authorities made 2,431 requests to Google for user data in the second half of 2012, according to Google's 2013 transparency report.

Million surveillance system budget: $132 million

The Indian government allocated 8,000,000,000 rupees (roughly US$132 million) for the implementation of a vast new surveillance system.

The Central Monitoring System, which began rolling out in April, enables the government to bypass service providers and directly monitor phone calls, text messages, and Internet use, according to Human Rights Watch. The system will have central and regional databases to help agencies intercept and monitor communications, and will feature analysis of call data records and data mining of the records to identify call details, location details, and other information of target numbers, according to reports.

The project was created without public or parliamentary dialogue, and has raised concerns about privacy in the country. CPJ believes such a system of surveillance compromises the ability of journalists to report independently and has the potential to lead reporters to practice self-censorship in an effort to avoid repercussions from the state. In the past, India has used vague laws to arrest critics of the government, including journalists.

The project is expected to be fully implemented by August 2014, according to the Global Post.

Caught in the surveillance net:

896 million Landline and cellphone users, according to government figures.

82 million Facebook users in the country, according to the social networking site.

152 million Internet users, according to the most recent Internet penetration figures compiled by the International Telecommunication Union.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.