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Population: 1.402 billion
Internet penetration: 60%
17th June 2024

For much of the year India’s media have been engaged in covering parliamentary elections, won by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling alliance, albeit with a smaller majority than expected. The run-up to the elections saw a number of new laws passed, some replacing archaic legislation, which many fear may undermine press freedom in India.

Journalists and digital media groups have expressed concern about sweeping regulatory powers given to the government under the new laws. The Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDP) gives powers to government-appointed board members to implement its provisions. Critics point out that the law also lacks exemptions for journalists to access personal data for doing journalistic work that might be in the public interest.1 A second law, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Act, replacing earlier colonial era legislation, aims to simplify the process of registration of periodicals. However, concerns have been raised about the unspecified powers given to the government to issue guidelines or make rules under the Act. A third new law, The Telecommunications Act 2023, was passed when many opposition members were under suspension in the Parliament and it has raised concerns over its broad definitions of telecommunication services, and about excessive powers for surveillance, internet shutdowns, and government access to encrypted social media messages.2

In March, the central government’s plans to make its fact-check unit under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting the core place to flag false information related to government business were put on hold by the Supreme Court. The Court noted that there were ‘serious constitutional issues’ related to the government’s move, which many media bodies have said will affect freedom of speech and expression.

In a move to restore transparency in electoral funding, the Supreme Court of India also intervened to strike down electoral bonds, essentially anonymous ways of funding political parties. Noting it affected the voter’s right to information, the court also directed the State Bank of India (SBI) to release information on electoral bonds purchased so far.3 This ruling provided opportunities for digital platforms such as NewsLaundry and The News Minute to collaborate on investigative stories to cast light on the electoral funding of political parties in the country.

This year’s Digital News Report survey shows declining trust for some news brands, at a time when the mainstream Indian media have also faced criticism for their coverage of the violence in the state of Manipur. The national and regional media’s coverage of the tensions between the ethnic Kuki and Meitei communities in May last year was found lacking context and balance. But concerns were also expressed about widespread misinformation via WhatsApp and other social media, which was fuelling tensions. The internet ban imposed by the government to control the situation adversely affected free flow of information for reporters within the region and alienated the rest of the country from crucial developments, a fact-finding report by the Editors’ Guild of India noted.4

These developments highlight the widespread use of different social media and messaging apps for news in India. Our survey respondents reflect, in some measure, a new generation of Indians whose main source of news is often via social media platforms. Almost half of respondents use YouTube (54%) and WhatsApp (48%) for news each week, while Facebook and X are becoming less popular.

However, legacy platforms such as NDTV, Times of India, Republic TV, and BBC News continue to enjoy high viewership in their offline and online products, among our younger, urban, mostly English-speaking sample. Despite a general decline in interest in news over the years, print (40%) and TV (46%) remain popular platforms for respondents to access news, especially during this crucial election year.

After taking control of NDTV, AMG Media Networks, which is part of the powerful business conglomerate Adani Enterprises Ltd., has increased its stake in the news agency Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and more recently in the company that runs the digital financial news platform BQ Prime. The Adani Group’s expansion within the media landscape reflects the increasing corporatisation of media in India.5

In October, the offices and residences of employees and journalists associated with the bilingual digital news portal NewsClick were raided by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. The raids followed previous surveys and investigations by the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax Department, and other government agencies over alleged foreign funding received by the news organisation.6 Journalists’ unions and several independent press bodies have criticised the actions of the government agencies, which involved seizure of devices, and the use of terrorism charges against NewsClick as ‘chilling’ and an effort to muzzle press freedom.

Anjana Krishnan
Research Associate, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai

Methodology note

These data are based on a survey of mainly English-speaking, online news users in India – a small subset of a larger, more diverse, media market. Findings in this online poll are not nationally representative and will tend to under-represent the continued importance of traditional media such as TV and print.


Trust in news overall



Overall trust in news increased slightly in this election year (41%). Among those included in our survey, large legacy media brands tend to retain the highest levels of trust, including public broadcasters like the BBC and All Indian Radio. Partisan commercial broadcasters and independent digital portals who are either uncritical or extremely critical of those in positions of power are actively distrusted by the respondents. As always, scores should not be seen as a measure of the quality or trustworthiness of the content itself.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 31.28

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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