Fears of censorship grow as Modi begins third term

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi readies for his third term, he formally took the oath of office on Sunday, casting a shadow over the nation’s landscape of free speech and press freedom. With each successive term, Modi’s administration has faced criticism for tightening control over the media and curbing dissenting voices, with instances of journalists and activists facing harassment, intimidation, and even legal action for criticisng the government or expressing views contrary to the official narrative.

India’s extensive six-week election period concluded with a tally of 640 million votes on 4 June. In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) secured an outright majority by winning 292 seats out of the 543 seats, surpassing the 272 seats required for a clear majority in India’s lower house of Parliament.

Meer Faisal, a 23-year-old journalist and the founder of The Observer Post, an online news portal based in Delhi, holds little optimism regarding Modi’s government when it comes to censorship and freedom of expression in India. He has faced significant censorship in the past during Modi’s tenure for his coverage on atrocities against Muslims in India.  In October last year, his Twitter account faced restrictions in India due to his reporting.

“As a journalist, especially being a Muslim, it invites more censorship and trouble. The Modi government aims to silence every voice that speaks against them. They want to build a narrative in the country and label everyone who criticises government policies as anti-national,” said Faisal.

Faisal is among many in India who express fear concerning Modi’s third term, citing concerns beyond censorship to include threats to freedom of speech.

Since August 2019, the Modi government has also barred many Kashmiri journalists from travelling abroad, offering no explanation for restricting their fundamental rights.

“In Modi’s third term, I fear that there will be more harsh policies against journalists and more tactics will be employed to intimidate us. This will directly impact our reporting abilities and help authorities in curbing the voice of people,” said Faisal.

In the 2024 edition of the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, India is ranked 159th out of the 180 nations considered. “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,” RSF stated while releasing the data.

Asif Mujtaba, 34, an advocate for people’s rights and director of the Miles2smile Foundation—which works with survivors of mob lynching, communal violence, and selective communal demolition—believes that the space for dissent has significantly decreased since Modi came to power, and public participation in protests has also diminished.

“It’s become a tough task for social and political activists, regardless of any religion, to work for people’s rights under Modi’s regime. The government can use any stringent law to frame you and silence your voice,” saidMujtaba.

According to Mujtaba, many people in India are apprehensive about openly criticising Modi because they are aware of the potential repercussions. A significant number of individuals who were once vocal against the regime have now become quiet..

“Modi’s administration is aware of the escalating dissent and the potential for increased protests against their policies in the third term. The growing public dissent will force Modi to resort to heavy-handed tactics to silence the people,” said Mujtaba.

In the first four months of 2024, India has experienced at least 134 instances of free speech violation, impacting journalists, academics, YouTubers, and students, according to a report published by the Free Speech Collective in early May. The organisation tracks and categorises free speech violations and offers support to those affected.

Niranjan K S, 22, a fourth-year law student at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, and a member of the All India Revolutionary Students Organisation (AIRSO), argues that the suppression of dissent is driven by the corporate-Hindutva fascist nexus, which aims to transform the country into a fascist dictatorship. As a result, free speech will be stifled, and only those who support the ruling forces will retain their right to free expression.

“The surge in the enforcement of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the uptick in political detentions, particularly aimed at students and activists like Sharjeel Imam and Umar Khalid, who were involved in the anti-CAA protests of 2019, demonstrate a systematic use of these draconian laws to quash all forms of dissent,” said Niranjan.

During the protests, students played an active role in amplifying the voices of the oppressed within the country. However, the BJP regime labeled these students as “anti-national” and “terrorists,” attempting to delegitimise their activism and dissent.

Niranjan emphasised that secularism and communal harmony are already under significant threat due to the Hindutva ideology of the current regime, which could further hinder free speech. “In this third term of the Modi government, the non-state elements of fascism will be more utilised to advance their offensive than the state elements,” said Niranjan.

Index on Censorship sought a response from a BJP spokesperson regarding censorship as Modi embarks on his historic third term. Answer came there none.

Contents – Modi’s India: The Age of Intolerance


The central theme of the Spring 2023 issue of Index is India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After monitoring Modi’s rule since he was elected in 2014, Index decided to look deeper into the state of free expression inside the world’s largest democracy.

Index spoke to a number of journalists and authors from, or who live in, India; and discovered that on every marker of what a democracy should be, Modi’s India fails. The world is largely silent when it comes to Narendra Modi. Let’s change that.

Up Front

Can India survive more Modi?, by Jemimah Seinfeld: Nine years into his leadership the world has remained silent on Modi's failed democracy. It's time to turn up the temperature before it's too late.

The Index, by Mark Frary: The latest news from the free speech frontlines. Big impact elections, poignant words from the daughter of a jailed Tunisian opposition politician, and the potential US banning of Tik Tok.


Cultural amnesia in Cairo, by Nick Hilden: Artists are under attack in the Egyptian capital where signs of revolution are scrubbed from the street.

‘Crimea has turned into a concentration camp’, by Nariman Dzhelal: Exclusive essay from the leader of the Crimean Tatars, introduced by Ukranian author Andrey Kurkov.

Fighting information termination, by Jo-Ann Mort: How the USA's abortion information wars are being fought online.

A race to the bottom, by Simeon Tegel: Corruption is corroding the once-democratic Peru as people take to the streets.

When comics came out, by Sara Century: The landscape of expression that gave way to a new era of queer comics, and why the censors are still fighting back.

In Iran women’s bodies are the battleground, by Kamin Mohammadi: The recent protests, growing up in the Shah's Iran where women were told to de-robe, and the terrible u-turn after.

Face to face with Iran’s authorities, by Ramita Navai: The award-winning war correspondent tells Index's Mark Frary about the time she was detained in Tehran, what the current protests mean and her Homeland cameo.

Scope for truth, by Kaya Genç: The Turkish novelist visits a media organisation built on dissenting voices, just weeks before devastating earthquakes hit his homeland.

Ukraine’s media battleground, by Emily Couch: Two powerful examples of how fraught reporting on this country under siege has become.

Storytime is dragged into the guns row, by Francis Clarke: Relaxed gun laws and the rise of LGBTQ+ sentiment is silencing minority communities in the USA.

Those we must not leave behind, by Martin Bright: As the UK government has failed in its task to rescue Afghans, Index's editor at large speaks to members of a new Index network aiming to help those whose lives are in imminent danger.

Special Report: Modi's India

Modi’s singular vision for India, by Salil Tripathi: India used to be a country for everyone. Now it's only for Hindus - and uncritical ones at that.

Blessed are the persecuted, by Hanan Zaffar: As Christians face an increasing number of attacks in India, the journalist speaks to people who have been targeted.

India’s Great Firewall, by Aishwarya Jagani: The vision of a 'digital India' has simply been a way for the authoritarian government to cement its control.

Stomping on India’s rights, by Marnie Duke: The members of the RSS are synonymous with Modi. Who are they, and why are they so controversial?

Bollywood’s Code Orange, by Debasish Roy Chowdhury: The Bollywood movie powerhouse has gone from being celebrated to being used as a tool for propaganda.

Bulldozing freedom, by Bilal Ahmad Pandow: Narendra Modi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir has seen buildings dismantled in line with people's broader rights.

Let’s talk about sex, by Mehk Chakraborty: In a country where sexual violence is abundant and sex education is taboo, the journalist explores the politics of pleasure in India.

Uncle is watching, by Anindita Ghose: The journalist and author shines a spotlight on the vigilantes in India who try to control women.


Keep calm and let Confucius Institutes carry on, by Kerry Brown: Banning Confucius Institutes will do nothing to stop Chinese soft power. It'll just cripple our ability to understand the country.

A papal precaution, by Robin Vose: Censorship on campus and taking lessons from the Catholic Church's doomed index of banned works.

The democratic federation stands strong, by Ruth Anderson: Putin's assault on freedoms continues but so too does the bravery of those fighting him.


Left behind and with no voice, by Lijia Zhang and Jemimah Steinfeld: China's children are told to keep quiet. The culture of silence goes right the way up.

Zimbabwe’s nervous condition, by Tsitsi Dangarembga: The Zimbabwean filmmaker and author tells Index's Katie Dancey-Downes about her home country's upcoming election, being arrested for a simple protest and her most liberating writing experience yet.

Statues within a plinth of their life, by Marc Nash: Can you imagine a world without statues? And what might fill those empty plinths? The London-based novelist talks to  Index's Francis Clarke about his new short story, which creates exactly that.

Crimea’s feared dawn chorus, by Martin Bright: A new play takes audiences inside the homes and families of Crimean Tatars as they are rounded up.

From hijacker to media mogul, Soe Myint: The activist and journalist on keeping hope alive in Myanmar.

Let them know they are not forgotten

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_hoverbox image="115781" primary_title="Aasif Sultan" hover_title="Aasif Sultan" hover_background_color="black" el_class="text_white"]Aasif covers human rights for the Kashmir Narrator and was jailed for two years in August for alleged involvement in “harbouring known terrorists”[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_hoverbox image="115782" primary_title="Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee" hover_title="Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee" hover_background_color="black" el_class="text_white"]Jailed for six years in 2016 for writing about the practice of stoning in Iran and "insulting Islamic sanctities"[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_hoverbox image="115743" primary_title="Hatice Duman" hover_title="Hatice Duman" hover_background_color="black" el_class="text_white"]Hatice Duman is the former editor of the banned socialist newspaper Atılım, who has been in jail in Turkey since 2002[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_hoverbox image="115783" primary_title="Khaled Drareni" hover_title="Khaled Drareni" hover_background_color="black" el_class="text_white"]Khaled was jailed for three years in Algeria in August for covering the Hirak protest movement[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_hoverbox image="115780" primary_title="Loujain al-Hathloul" hover_title="Loujain al-Hathloul" hover_background_color="black" el_class="text_white"]Loujain is a women's rights activist known for her attempts to raise awareness of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, where she remains in jail[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_hoverbox image="115741" primary_title="Yuri Dmitriev" hover_title="Yuri Dmitriev" hover_background_color="black" el_class="text_white"]Yuri has been targeted for his work in identifying the graves of victims of Stalinist terror and has been jailed on baseless charges of sexual assault by the authorities[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]2020 has been a terrible year for the world.

Unfortunately, for some human rights activists, free speech supporters and journalists, 2020 is just yet another year they have spent in prison, incarcerated on trumped-up charges for speaking out against the actions of authoritarian regimes.

As 2020 comes to a close, we want them to know that no matter how long they have been in jail, they have not been forgotten.

We have chosen six people whose plights must not be forgotten as part of our new #JailedNotForgotten campaign.

Early in 2021, we will send cards containing messages of support from the Index team but we are also asking for you to stand in solidarity with them. Please use the form below to personalise your message to the chosen six:

  • Aasif Sultan, who was arrested in Kashmir after writing about the death of Buhran Wani and has been under illegal detention without charge for more than 800 days;
  • Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee, jailed for writing about the practice of stoning in Iran;
  • Hatice Duman, the former editor of the banned socialist newspaper Atılım, who has been in jail in Turkey since 2002;
  • Khaled Drareni, jailed in Algeria for 'incitement to unarmed gathering' simply for covering the weekly Hirak protests that are calling for political reform in the country;
  • Loujain al-Hathloul, a women's rights activist known for her attempts to raise awareness of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia;
  • Yuri Dmitriev, a historian being silenced by Putin in Russia for creating a memorial to the victims of Stalinist terror and facing fabricated sexual assault charges.

Add your message of support using the form below.

You can also sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, which features news relating to freedom of expression issues around the world. You do not need to sign up to this to send a message. [/vc_column_text][gravityform id="50" title="false" description="true" ajax="false"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="115746" img_size="full" onclick="custom_link" link="http://www.indexoncensorship.org/donate"][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Kashmir’s journalists have taken great risks this past year to get news out. We must support them

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="114499" img_size="full" add_caption="yes"][vc_column_text]A year ago, on 5th August, Narendra Modi’s government in India unilaterally changed the status of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, revoking most of Article 370 which had given the region a level of autonomy and protection for 65 years. This single action has led to a year-long lockdown and curtailing of nearly every human right for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The internet was switched off, phone lines were turned off, public gatherings were banned including for prayer, a curfew was instigated and the Indian army was deployed in significant numbers.

The situation on the ground has been devastating and it’s been almost impossible to get information to the Kashmiri diaspora about whether their friends and families are safe. For 213 days, you could not access the internet. And only after an international outcry were the approximately 300 journalists working in Kashmir given access to the internet via just a handful of official computers (in Srinagar, for example, CNN reported that the city’s journalists had to queue for hours to use just one of four computers with an internet connection for less than 15 minutes). Local media has been significantly restricted with huge pressure being placed on media outlets to only print the government line. The situation worsened just weeks ago, when the Indian government introduced a new media policy which has basically given carte blanche to the government to take action against any journalist or media organisation who operate in Kashmir if they don’t like what’s published.

Even in these circumstances journalists have remained in post, adamant to report on what is happening on the ground and the impact on the community – how people are surviving under such harsh circumstances. They have gone to extreme lengths to get news out, such as travelling to Delhi to access the internet. One Kashmiri journalist, Bilal Hussain, revealed in a recent interview with Index that in order to get video interviews to his editor in Paris, he would put them on a memory stick and give them to a friend who was travelling to the USA, and he sent it on from there.

These journalists did what only journalists can do, they shined a light where there was only darkness. They exposed the actions of a government that had moved against its citizens and they tried to tell the world.

This has not been without a huge personal cost though. Journalists have been harassed and in at least three cases arrested by the Indian authorities for doing their job. Masrat Zahra, a freelance photojournalist, Peerzada Ashiq from the Hindu newspaper and Gowhar Geelani, a renowned author and journalist, have all been arrested for crimes related to their journalism.

These journalists, these people, represent the front line in the fight for free speech. Their work, covering one of the most contentious areas of the world, ensures that the actions of government are not without consequence. They have made sure that the world knows and they have given hope to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s our job to make sure that they do not stand alone and we won’t let them down.

The Autumn issue of Index has a dispatch from Kashmir about the challenges of working in the region as a journalist. Click here for information on how to read the magazine. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_btn title="DONATE" color="danger" link="url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indexoncensorship.org%2Fdonate||target:%20_blank|"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]