Washington Post journalists recently reported on what appeared to be a growing crackdown in Tripura, a northeastern state in India known for its warm relationship with the U.S.
Tripura is home to a burgeoning trade of local labor for factories in the northern U.S. The Ohio Valley Development Initiative and Alliance for Job Development of Northeast Ohio have invested more than $40 million in industrial parks in recent years in the eastern Indian state.
The latest news has seemed to raise concerns for the future of that investment. Over the weekend, reporters working for the New York Times and the Mail Today English daily newspaper were arrested for filming near a factory making flares and personal water bottles. After being questioned at an information center, the reporters were forced to delete images from the smartphone. The security appeared to be that of the Tripura Police Force. The attacks came as concern was mounting in India over the unofficial arrest of Facebook executives for video and data leaks.
The beat for journalists is not unique, in India or anywhere else in the world. Censorship can be widespread, with journalists facing a variety of restrictions and fears about their safety. We recognize the importance of a free press, and we stand behind the work of our reporters.
Facebook and Snapchat faced off recently in a D.C. courtroom in the first public trial ever held by the Federal Trade Commission on practices that alleged consumer privacy violations were occurring. The case focused on whether the companies took enough effort to follow the policies they claimed to have in place when selling user data. India’s telecommunications regulator agreed with the FTC, and issued a ban on the practices in March. Indian regulators on Wednesday prohibited the sale and exchange of users’ personal data without their consent.
As WIRED and Wired magazine have reported, India is not a paradise for free speech, despite the election of a first female president of the country.
Wired has been investigating the series of protests by students, religious activists and those against the draft the new constitution for the country, which would implement a system of reservations for people from Indian states that are under-represented in the national government. Hindu hardliners, also known as fundamentalists, have dismissed those concerns as propaganda carried out by corrupt politicians. This has led to accusations of controlling information by groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the National Volunteer Force.
The New York Times and The Washington Post, as part of their reporting on the issues for their members, have often been targeted by various groups, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. WIRED published an article last fall outlining the various issues that Indian publishers and journalists face with digital security.
The Indian Press Council reported on a nearly six-hour standoff between the Indian parliament and a Hindu spiritual leader after lawmakers accused the head of forcing children to convert from Islam to Christianity, according to the Associated Press.
For those concerned about India’s democracy, it may be a reminder that Washington has its own history of restrictions on the right to expression.