Climate for free expression severely deteriorated under Modi govt: PEN International

India has witnessed a rising tide of violence, impunity, extended pre-trial detentions, and surveillance under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government, PEN International, said on Saturday as it wound up the 84th PEN International Congress with representation from 80 countries in Pune.
Climate for free expression severely deteriorated under Modi govt: PEN International
File Photo

India has witnessed a rising tide of violence, impunity, extended pre-trial detentions, and surveillance under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government, PEN International, said on Saturday as it wound up the 84th PEN International Congress with representation from 80 countries in Pune. The International writers body called upon the Indian government to safeguard freedom of expression in the country.

It released a report "India: Pursuing truth in the face of intolerance" that outlines how dissenting voices, by journalists, writers, academics or students "face intimidation, harassment, prosecution, online abuse, and physical violence."

It highlights "the use of overbroad laws; directed attacks online and offline; the systematic stifling of academic research and freedom; and the continued marginalisation of and hostility towards women's voices."

"Laws that stifle speech; an environment hostile to dissenting views; and emboldened critics online and in the real world have cast a chill over free expression in India. Journalists and writers have been sued, intimidated, threatened, and sometimes murdered. There is little political will to amend the laws that prevent free expression or to enforce laws that protect the writer," said Salil Tripathi, Writers in Prison Committee Chair. 

PEN International said in an official statement that it "calls on the Indian authorities to protect its writers, journalists and all others exercising their right to free expression" and to "bring its legislation in line with its obligations under international law".

"While this gathering has been about the promotion of peace-building and celebrating the power of the written word, it is also about protecting free expression and remembering those of us who pay the ultimate price for exercising this fundamental right. Today we honour Gauri Lankesh, who was shot to death outside her home a year ago. Even though we welcome the progress that has been in the investigation, we're still waiting for justice. Unless the cycle of impunity is broken, those who want to use violence to silence will be embolden to do so," said PEN International President Jennifer Clement.  

Related Stories

No stories found.