The latest assessment of press freedom in 180 countries, made by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) stated that media freedom is under “serious threat” in a majority of countries in South Asia. The media in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh face a “serious threat”, while their position in Nepal is “problematic” and is “difficult” in the Maldives.

India’s Global Score is 31.28 and is placed at 159 in a list of 180 countries in the Freedom Index. Since its Global Score is under 40, India is placed in the “serious threat” category.

Commenting on media freedom in India, the RSF stated: ““With violence against journalists, highly concentrated media ownership, and political alignment, press freedom is in crisis in the world’s largest democracy, ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right.

“Recent years have also seen the rise of Godi Media (Modi’s “lap dog media”) outlets that mix populism and pro-BJP propaganda. Through pressure and influence, the old Indian model of a pluralist press is being called into question. The prime minister is very critical of journalists, seeing them as intermediaries polluting his direct relationship with his supporters. Indian journalists who are very critical of the government are subjected to harassment campaigns by BJP-backed trolls.”

Pakistan gets a Global Score of 33.19 and is 152 in the Index. The Global Score being less than 40, Pakistan is also in the “very serious” list.

RSF points out the Pakistan government's direct control over media regulators, which tend to prioritise governmental interests over the public's right to information.

“Control extends to limiting coverage of military and intelligence agency involvement in politics, creating a chilling effect on journalistic inquiry,” RSF stated.

Pakistan is one of the world's most perilous countries for journalists, with frequent murders that often go unpunished, linked to corruption or illicit activities, it added.

Bangladesh is positioned 165 in the Index, with a Global Score of 27.64. It is also in the “very serious” category. RSF expresses dismay over the stringent Bangladesh Cyber Security Act (CSA) and observes that ruling party activists continue to perpetrate violent attacks against journalists who are disfavoured.

“The trend of judicial harassment to silence journalists or close media outlets persists. In such an adversarial climate, editors are cautious to avoid subjects that contradict official narratives,” RSF stated

Sri Lanka gets a Global Score of 35.21 and is 150 in theI Index. Its Global Score being less than 40, Sri Lanka also finds itself in the “very serious” list.

Describing the conditions in Sri Lanka RSF stated: “Sri Lankan law does not restrict freedom of expression, but nothing guarantees the protection of journalists,” RSF stated, adding that Parliament passed an internet regulation law in January 2024 creating the Online Safety Commission, whose members are appointed by the President.

“Under the guise of defending national security, it can censor the content and accounts of dissident voices on social media, and suspend the confidentiality of their sources. No journalist has been killed since 2015, but the previous killings have gone completely unpunished.”

Nepal has been given a Global Score of 60.52 and is 74 in the index and is in the “Problematic” list with its Global Score being in the 55 to 70 range.

On the situation in Nepal, RSF stated: “Coverage of police and local criminals’ activities is still off limits for journalists. Protection mechanisms exist, supported by the Press Council and the National Human Rights Commission. But they are unlikely to offer emergency solutions for reporters in danger. Cases of surveillance, threats and intimidation are legion, which pushes many journalists to self-censorship.”

Maldives has a Global Score of 52.36 and is at 106 in the Index. It is placed in the “Difficult” category. About the state of media freedom in the Maldives RSF stated: “”In 2014, journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla was abducted and his body was never found. In 2017, blogger Yameen Rasheed was brutally stabbed to death. While, behind these two tragedies, lies the spectre of Al-Qaeda–linked circles that could have ramifications within the police, the members of the commission of inquiry created in 2018 have remained quiet on any progress in the investigations.

“In November 2023, the two main defendants were acquitted. This total impunity poisons the freedom of the press situation. In addition, the issue of sexual harassment of women journalists is slowly emerging.”

The United States is placed at 55 in the Index with a Global Score of 66.59. RSF stated that there was “open antagonism from political officials, including calls to jail journalists and police actions against journalists and newsrooms in the past year.”

With a Global Score of 66.59 the US is in the “Problematic” category. The RSF stated that in the US, “anti-media policies are gaining in prevalence, especially at the local level, and there have been significant layoffs and media closures, impacting the economic context score.

“The safety ranking has declined sharply in the last two years, reflecting the killings of two journalists – Jeff German in 2022 and Dylan Lyons in 2023 – and a number of acts of violence against journalists and arrests. Trust in media also continues to decline, a trend encouraged by political actors seeking to vilify the press.”

The US House of Representatives recently passed an “Anti-semitism Awareness Bill”. It has drawn criticism because most of the examples of antisemitism that it cites involve criticism of the state of Israel, including calling it a “racist endeavour.”

The Bill is moving forward at a time when criticisms of Israel are in the spotlight. Protesters at the pro-Palestinian encampments on campuses nationwide have harshly criticized Israel, with some using language decried as antisemitic.

Supporters of the Bill say it covers the range of ways antisemitism manifests in the present day. But opponents say it chills legitimate criticism of Israel.

Those critiques did not hinder the Bill, which passed Wednesday 320-91. Republicans voted 187-21 for the bill, and Democrats supported it 133-70. Eighteen members did not vote, split evenly between the parties.

An identical version is under consideration in the Senate, and while it is in its early stages, it too is likely to pass.