An event sponsored by Unesco included Rana Ayyub, a controversial Indian journalist who writes for US media and has urged for refocusing emphasis on media freedom in India.
She questioned New Delhi's democratic credentials and its press freedom at the conference held on the eve of World Press Freedom Day in the General Assembly chamber on Tuesday. “It is important for the world to shift its attention to India because we do not really talk about India as much, and I really hope you do that in the days to come,” she said.
“We typically don't focus as much on India when we talk about attacks in the media because it's viewed as this place of democracy, you know, syncretic values and cultural pluralism.”
A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, first called out India at the 30th Anniversary of World Press Freedom Day Global Conference, saying that “in India, authorities have raided newsrooms and treated journalists essentially as terrorists.”
“In countries where press freedoms were strong, including the United States, journalists now face systematic campaigns to undermine their credibility, followed by attacks on the legal protections that safeguard their work,” he said.
Reporters Shield is a project that provides coverage for defamation lawsuits and legal threats aimed at “silencing critical voices” for investigative journalists throughout the globe, according to Samantha Power, administrator of the US government's Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Washington Post employee Ayyub said, “I have typically seen world leaders talk about democratic values right here at this podium (and) some of us journalists watching it on TV look at them and like, “Hey, you are everything but democratic,”” while sat at the General Assembly dais.
She stated: “I come from India, the land of democracy, which prides itself on, about democratic values,” as she described what she said were assaults on press freedom. My nation is more essential to me because I love it more than any other entity in the world.
She said that she was engaged in “legal warfare” due to allegations of tax fraud, money laundering, and defamation arising from her work as a journalist, including an undercover assignment where she claimed to have “eight cameras on my body” while acting as a “Hindu nationalist.”
She made reference to the murder of journalist Gauri Lankeshwar in 2017, who she said had rejected threats as “paper tigers” and had translated her book into Kannada.
She said that she has been the target of physical assaults and death threats both at home and on social media.
She said that the Mumbai Police seemed unconcerned, claiming that the threats were solely made online.
In a statement emphasising her Muslim heritage, Ayyub asserted that “there is a sustained attack on the 200 million Muslim minorities on the lower caste in India systematically even as the country is preparing to host the G20 Summit in India, where world leaders are coming to India and (will be) talking about the virtues of democracy.”
Notably, neither a speaker from China who was employed there nor a Chinese dissident overseas was included on the conference's advertised roster of speakers.