Asian governments are doing more to harass and arrest journalists reporting on the coronavirus pandemic and to keep accurate news of the crisis from reaching their populations than those in any other region, press advocates say.Tracking by the Indian village women line up outside a bank to withdraw 500 rupees received as relief money from government, during coronavirus lockdown in Fatehpur district, Uttar Pradesh state, India, May 11, 2020.Besides the arrests and lawsuits, Modi’s government had also tried convincing the country’s Supreme Court to order media outlets to clear any reports on the pandemic with the government before publishing. Although the court rejected the request, Sharma said the attempt still sent regional authorities a powerful and dangerous message.”When the top levels of government seek to clamp down on independent reporting then local authorities feel emboldened to silence journalists who are seeking public accountability, which possibly explains why we saw a slew of cases against journalists, many of whom were arrested or booked for their reports on the pandemic and the lockdown,” she told VOA.The central government’s loss at the Supreme Court has not stopped its own efforts, either.Fake news ruseAliya Iftikhar, senior researcher for the CPJ’s Asia Program, said the government has expanded its powers under existing laws and used them to target journalists reporting critically on its response to the crisis.”While press freedom has been under threat in the country in recent years, the government has plainly used the pandemic as an opportunity to crack down on critical reporting,” she said.That attitude combined with India’s exceptional size, population and COVID-19 case load all contribute to the many press freedom violations being logged there in connection with reporting on the pandemic, Iftikhar added.Rights groups say governments’ claims to be acting to curb fake news, while a genuine problem, is more ruse than reality and that many of their efforts do just the opposite.”Fake news and disinformation spreads when there is lack of genuine and correct information through the mass media,” the IPI’s Prasad said. “Governments should be working closely with the media to give a real clear picture of what’s happening in the countries instead of clamping down on them and allowing space for fake news to spread.”