The focus today—World Press Freedom Day—is on China and rightfully so. China remains the world’s largest jailer of journalists and the Beijing Olympics are as good a time as any for the world media to push for greater press freedom there. But, it is also a good day to reflect on the issue in India. A new opinion poll by a US-based consortium of research institutes shows that only 52% of those polled in India want media “without government control”. And just 29% thought media here has “a lot” of freedom.
Clearly, those polled have an accurate read. India’s free press is quite beholden to the government—for direct advertising revenue, for still restrictive foreign investment rules, for select access to friendly journalists. But, an industry that fights any suggestion of government regulating content has also been an utter failure at policing itself or shining a light on its own bad journalism or questionable business practices. Freedom without accountability won’t last.