Authorities in India have arrested dozens of journalists after they criticised the government’s response to COVID-19.
As cases of the virus continue to rise, more than 50 journalists have been arrested or had police complaints against them. Some have even been physically assaulted. The majority of those that have been targeted are independent journalists working in more rural parts of the country.
Om Sharma, a journalist with Hindi daily said that the action is designed to send a message.
“The indirect message is that we cannot show the government in poor light. It does not matter if we have to turn a blind eye to issues we witness.”
He was charged by police over a Facebook Live report that showed workers in need of food during the lockdown. Charges against him include disobeying the order of a public servant, spreading false information, and acting negligently to spread infection of a dangerous disease.
Last week, the Indian authorities partially lifted lockdown restrictions after 10 weeks. As of Thursday, over 1.58 million people had been confirmed with COVID-19 and more than 38,000 had died.
Prior to the initial lockdown, Prime minister Narendra Modi held a virtual video conference with 20 prominent owners and editors of Indian media. He said the purpose of this was to tackle the spread of negativity, pessimism and rumour.
Modi’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticised as he has largely failed to curb the spread of the virus. India is now the third-worst affected country, following Brazil and the US.