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RSF targets India yet again in its Press Freedom Index: Here is a glimpse into their methodology that proves they are the mouthpiece of the global left

Closer scrutiny of the methodology espoused by the RSF reveals that it is a biased index tailor-made to peddle the global left's narrative, and any individual taking this seriously based on this flimsy methodology is naive at best, and malicious at worst.

In the horrors of horrors and what constitutes one of the fantasies of the Left Liberals in India, ‘Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) has downgraded India in the Press Freedom Index yet again. From a 142 rank last year, India now stands at 150, below regimes like that of UAE and even Hong Kong. The rankings were released on Tuesday, sending our homegrown ANTIFA enthusiasts in a celebratory tizzy.

Russia, which is currently at war, was placed at 155th position, down from 150th last year, while China climbed up by two positions with the Reporters Without Borders placing it at 175th position. Last year, China was placed in the 177th position.

“On the World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and nine other human rights organisations ask Indian authorities to stop targeting journalists and online critics for their work,” the international non-profit organisation said in a statement on its website. “More specifically, they should stop prosecuting them under counterterrorism and sedition laws,” it added.

“The authorities’ targeting of journalists coupled with a broader crackdown on dissent has emboldened Hindu nationalists to threaten, harass and abuse journalists critical of the Indian government, both online and offline, with impunity,” it said. “The authorities should also conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into allegations of threats and attacks targeting journalists and critics, including from government officials,” the RSF said, adding, “journalists should not have to risk their freedom and their lives to do their work.”

They mentioned all the right words for our Left Liberals to fawn over just how motivated, biased and ill-informed this survey was, the operative word being ‘Hindu Nationalists’. There is, of course, no basis for such assertions. Just unbridled hate by sections of the global Left for not just Hindus at large, but also the fact that post-2014, there has been a substantial shift in the power balance as far as narrative control is concerned. The power that rested in the hands of the few has shifted to the conscience of the many. Citizen journalism, thanks to Social Media is at its peak and average Indians have started calling out those who spread misinformation with impunity, sitting in their ivory towers, protected by global organisations like RSF.

But if we have learnt anything from the BBC fiasco, where they basically lied, claiming their survey proved Nationalists spread fake news in the country, is that there are two aspects that play a key role in deciphering why a particular organisation dishes out biased opinions against India – where the money comes from and what their methodology is. In this article, we will dissect their methodology.

How the methodology followed by RSF is bound to demonise India

On their website, RSF has diligently documented the methodology they follow in order to come up with the Press Freedom Index. Off the bat, it is important to understand that they follow both Qualitative and Quantitative methods, therefore, it is safe to assume that the opinions of a few, probably Left Liberals, weigh heavily on where India is placed in the ranking.

First and foremost, it is very interesting what RSF calls “press freedom” to begin with. On their Methodology page, RSF says, “Press freedom is defined as the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety.”

One has to wonder what “mental safety” means in this context. After the shrill cacophony of “online trolling”, this only means that any disagreement online with the established network of journalists would be tantamount to “harassment” in the eyes of RSF. Would RSF consider an investigation into Rana Ayyub’s money laundering mental harassment? Absolutely. Essentially, RSF wants the process of the law and the will of the people to be thrown out of the window so their Liberal circle of journalists are free to further whatever misinformation they so choose and indulge in illegality with impunity.

The score to be given to each country is decided, as mentioned earlier, on a qualitative and quantitative basis.

RSF Methodology document

Let us break this down.

In their quantitative analysis, every legitimate legal process against any individual or media house would also be counted as an “abuse”. Further, even online comments, for example, those against The Wire, would be counted as abuse given that they believe even the “mental safety” of journalists and media houses is paramount. Essentially, the RSF believes that no government can take action against journalists or media houses that indulge in illegality and individuals, other media organisations can’t point out how their circle of media houses indulge in rampant falsities. If either of these is done, it would amount to a country curbing freedom of the press.

In the Qualitative analysis, RSF relies on “press freedom specialists” to answer questions about their nation. Now, who would these “specialists” be, you think? Would it be beat reporters who go to the ground and get stories? Would it be those like Deepak Chaurasia, who was attacked by an anti-CAA mob at Shaheen Bagh or the ANI reporters Ujjwal Roy and Sarabjeet Singh who faced a dangerous attack by Jamia Millia Islamia Mob? Or those journalists displaced from Bengal during the post-poll violence? Would the fact that journalists and media houses are categorically told that they would not be allowed to do their job or get ad revenue from the government if they cover stories that don’t show Mamata Banerjee in a positive light feature? Would it feature the harassment of Arnab Goswami by the Maharashtra government?

Not really. They are not “specialists” in the eye of the global left cabal. Who would be specialists, then? Rana Ayyub who is under the ED scanner for money laundering and weaves fantastical tales of her own persecution because average citizens choose to call her out on her lies. Those at NewsClick, perhaps, who received several crores from US-based companies and China. The folks at The Wire who shill for Muslims, demonise Hindus and are run by an American passport holder. Those like Harsh Mander who get money from the Italian government. The list is, of course, endless.

So basically, any comment against journalists or a media house, any legal procedure against those indulging in illegality and the opinions of the members of the global left cabal form the foundation of the RSF Press Freedom Index. Are we surprised that India is constantly on their radar and is being targeted for being worse than Hong Kong?

The farce of their methodology does not end there.

Their questionnaire is based on 5 “contextual indicators” – political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and safety.

Let us look at each of these contextual indicators separately.

Political context

To evaluate the “political context”, the questionnaire has 33 questions that let the experts choose on a scale that ranges from ‘completely disagree’ to ‘completely agree’ and similar metrics.

RSF Methodology document

Points 2 and 3 in their “political context” explanation are particularly interesting. RSF says that they want to evaluate the “acceptance” of “a variety of journalistic approaches satisfying professional standards including politically aligned approaches”. It further says that it wishes to evaluate “the degree of support for media in their role of holding politicians and government to account in the public interest”.

Now, when these are put together, one understands the kind of journalism that RSF specifically wants “supported”. Let us take an example. In November 2021, Amravati in Maharashtra saw rampant violence by Muslim mobs. The violence was a result of fake news being spread in Tripura, where journalists claimed that a mosque had been vandalised. At that time, in Tripura, Hindus were protesting against the violence against Hindus in Bangladesh. Muslim mobs came out on the streets and started vandalising Hindu shops and homes. Journalists then spread fake news that a mosque had been vandalised by Hindus. After this fake news spread, rallies were carried out in Maharashtra against the alleged vandalisation and it resulted in widespread violence by the Muslim mobs. Now, if the authorities were to act on the journalists who malicious spread fake news and then tried to escape the law, would it be considered an attack on freedom of the press? According to RSF, it most likely would.

Essentially, RSF says that if journalists don’t get explicit “acceptance” for reports that are false or twist facts to suit a political narrative, they would downgrade India’s press freedom. It is clearly not enough that egregious opinions against the government, Hindus at large etc are aired on a regular basis. They have to have explicit “acceptance and support”, otherwise, India is rallying against journalists.

Their designs are also clear from another document where they explain the political context in reference to India.

RSF, while largely controlled by the French government, and NGOs like Ford Foundation have taken it upon themselves to demonise millions of Hindus they call “bhakts” or “Modi devotees”. They have also demonised one of the biggest business conglomerates of India simply because the Left media does not particularly like them. This is indication enough that RSF is a mouthpiece of the global left and even in India, it is working at the behest of bad actors and regime change enthusiasts.

Interestingly, they demonise one entire section of political opinion even as they claim they want acceptance of politically divergent political journalism.

Let’s look at some of the questions that were asked in this section.

RSF Methodology document

RSF is evaluating if journalists get “public insults” and have hate incited against them. There is no quantitative definition of “hate” so it is left to the judgement of RSF and the clique they rely on to answer their questionnaire. Essentially, if any political group even counters a journalist for misrepresentation or bias, it would be tagged as discreditation, insult, hate or threat. So if Arfa Khanum Sherwani says that Muslims don’t commit religiously motivated crimes against Hindus and you, or any political faction, chooses to counter that, India as a whole would slip down the press freedom index.

Here is another question.

RSF Methodology document

There are only two options – yes/no. There is no context to it. Of course, the authorities have cut access to the internet in several parts of the country. When there was communal tension, in Kashmir when terrorists were being snuffed out, so on and so forth. However, the cabal would simply say “yes” and India would slip down the press freedom index. It’s just that simple.

What is interesting is that despite such questions, China, of all places, has improved its press freedom ranking. So has Hong Kong, where reports of CCP curbing independent news outlets have become par for the course, especially after China imposed a sweeping national security law that makes it easier for authorities to punish protesters and clamp down on the city’s autonomy. Those who sit in judgement of India are whitewashing despotic nations.

Legal framework

The legal framework evaluates countries based on 25 questions.

RSF Methodology document

One has to give it to RSF – they know how to keep their parameters completely vague so their “experts” can evaluate a nation based on their “feelings” and no empirical data. One of the interesting points in this section is that they want to evaluate whether there exists the “ability to access information without discrimination between journalists”. Now, if a Vir Sanghvi is asked this question, what do you think his answer would be as compared to a beat journalist on the ground? The Sanghvis and Dutts have lost the kind of access they had earlier. They are no longer able to fix ministries and therefore, the kind of individuals considered “experts” for the Global left would certainly say that they are discriminated against.

Here is one of the questions asked in this segment.

RSF Methodology document

Every country has laws against terrorism, separatism and extremism that can be used against journalists if they indulge in such activity. However, RSF asks a broad brush question where selecting anything other than “No, not at all” would mean that the press is not free in a country.

Here is another one.

RSF Methodology document

In this question, there is no quantitative measurement of “frequently” and therefore, it is a matter of perception or opinion. Even if 2 journalists have been convicted, the answer could be “systematically” and the country would slide down the press index.

Economic context

There are 25 questions in this part of the questionnaire.

RSF Methodology document

In this section, it is evident that RSF wants to evaluate how much government support the Left media get and whether advertisers, governments and industrialists favour them still or not.

How do I know this? Sample this. Here is what they write in another document where they explain the economic context of India.

RSF Methodology document

RSF goes ahead and normalises terms like “Godi Media” to basically call an entire section of media PM Modi’s “Lapdogs” (A word they specifically use). Further, they call out Republic TV and Times Now specifically saying that they spread “pro-BJP propaganda”. Interestingly, they had earlier claimed that one of the essentials for a country to have press freedom is that it is “accepting” of politically divergent views, going as far as to say that even acceptance of “political affiliated” views is also a prerequisite. However, here they specifically demonise media houses that choose to not toe the Left’s line. It is therefore evident that this entire exercise is to arm-twist the entire nation, not just the government, into accepting and mainstreaming Left views, failing which, India would slide down the Press Freedom Index.

Now, here is one of the questions asked in this segment.

RSF Methodology document

Given that RSF is explicitly only interested in the Leftist point of view, do you think the fact that Mamata Banerjee categorically threatened media houses would feature as a consideration? Essentially, whether it has a factual basis or not, the Leftist “experts” would choose “not at all” because they regularly whine about channels like Republic, Times Now etc being espoused by the government. They would provide no evidence for it, however, that is a narrative they would stick to and employ even in this questionnaire.

In this section, there are several other questions that mainly revolve around the control and funding of media and journalists. They ask how much control financial entities with vested interests hold in media, how much handout is given to media houses to change their stand etc. Essentially, how much does money influence their opinions? Interestingly, the fact that Congress directly invests in media houses, that journalists in NDTV have familial ties to Congress and CPIM etc would not feature in the minds of the “experts” answering these questions. They would tarnish India based on conjecture, on their perception of government support for “godi media”, a term now mainstreamed by RSF.

While RSF asks questions about money exerting influence on the media, it is pertinent to note that they are not so free themselves. They had extensive ties to the French government and dubious regime change NGOs like Ford Foundation. While they stand in the judgement, it is evident that their own opinion is coloured by money, favours and ideology.

Sociocultural context

In this section, there were 22 questions.

RSF Methodology document

In this section, the foundation of their evaluation would include if journalists are “pressured to not question bastions of power or not cover certain issues because it would run counter to the prevailing culture in the country”. Now, what do you think the leftists would immediately think about when these questions are posed to them? The mythical Muslim persecution, of course.

Here is what they asked.

RSF Methodology document

We often like to say that the media is ideologically divided, however, it is a fact that in India, the majority of established media tilts towards the Left. RSF has categorically demonised Republic TV and Times Now that according to the Left, show a politically different opinion from theirs. While they do that, asking if the media reflects the pluralism of opinion is a sham that has to be called out. What they essentially mean is whether the media today has a free reign to spread propaganda against the government and Hindus, in India’s context, and the answer to that is certainly no. They may have a chokehold over the media, but there are voices that oppose their agenda and as long as those voices remain, the Leftists would continue to choose “no, not at all” to ensure India remains low on the Press Freedom Index.

Here is another intriguing question.

RSF Methodology document

I thought RSF was FOR freedom of the press and expression? If they are, then why would they have a problem with a popular opposition movement against media when they express opinions on culturally sensitive subjects? In a democracy, the very essence that we thrive on is the fact that there are various opinions on every sensitive subject and ultimately, the people get to choose what they want to believe in, after being given access to the entire spectrum of opinion. Why would RSF then say that there is no press freedom if an opposition movement of ideas blooms? Given that RSF has derided “bhakts”, Hindus and a section of the media against the left, it is evident that what they really want to understand is that has alternate media, or Hindus at large, gathered enough momentum yet to counter the Left media that RSF espouses.

In the last section, they talk about the safety of journalists. Intriguingly, not even one question talks about whether terrorist groups target journalists on a daily basis. What they do ask is how journalists are harassed and abused and also if journalists are spied on. It needs to be mentioned at this point that there is no denying that journalists in several parts of the nation work in extremely dangerous conditions. We have seen in several Sharia-compliant countries and even in others like the USA how journalists are harassed and abused, even physically attacked for the work they do. One recalls the case of Andy Ngo in the USA where he was assaulted for reporting against ANTIFA. However, in India’s context, the “experts” who would answer these questions have no idea about the real world and base these answers on how they are not being favoured by the government, not on the basis of the safety they enjoy.

For example, one of the questions asked in this segment is whether journalists are spied on. Now, those sitting in high chairs fancied themselves important enough to be surveilled during the Pegasus story. That entire sham was summarily debunked, however, they would continue to say that in India, journalists are spied on. This, while Honk Kong would feature above India in the Press Freedom Index.

The truth of the matter as far as RSF is concerned is that it is a biased index tailor-made to peddle the global left’s narrative and any individual taking this seriously based on this flimsy methodology is naive at best and malicious at worst.

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