India’s Freedom of Speech Barred Online
We quit journalism and started blogging because it gives you the freedom to express your opinion and thoughts, unlike the mainstream media that is pressured to go with the flow by the system. Most media houses force you to carry press releases and are marketing tools for companies.
But that scenario seems to be changing with the recent case of the 19-year old Ajith D, who is facing a lawsuit for starting a community on Orkut against the right wing political party Shiv Sena. There were several posts and discussions by anonymous members who alleged that Shiv Sena was trying to divide the country on region and caste basis.
On searching Orkut, I found over 1000 Shiv Sena communities which carried explicit views, so its rather strange that the group started by Ajith came under the scanner and the Supreme Court warned bloggers saying they may face libel and even prosecution for their blog content, and even the comments posted on their blog.
Orkut is a social networking site, which is apparently the second most visited site in India, so the site needs to filter out such content instead of letting it reach this level. In Ajith’s case the Shiv Sena youth wing’s state secretary registered a criminal complaint at Thane police station in August 2008 based on which FIR was registered against Ajith under Sections 506 and 295A pertaining to hurting public sentiment.
This is not the first time that a Orkut member has been arrested, even in 2008 a 22-year old IT consultant was held for writing in a community called ‘I hate Sonia Gandhi.’
In a democratic country like India, freedom of expression and speech is getting curbed, which is extremely disheartening, are we going the China way? The Supreme court not only quashed Ajith’s plea to exercise his freedom of speech but also said something which is difficult to digest.
SC bench said, “We cannot quash criminal proceedings. You are a computer student and you know how many people access Internet portals. Hence, if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct.” Now he has to face the court in Maharashtra, also the home of Shiv Sena.
Are we as citizens of a democratic society suppose to sit quiet and watch while the MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) breaks down the framework of the city by attacking north Indians? Are we not allowed to speak or think, are we not suppose to discuss what a immense system failure it was when the terrorists took over the hotels in Mumbai. What kind of democracy is it where people are not allowed to discuss if a political party is doing something wrong, or pass a point of view in a discussion forum?
Blogging is the medium that has emerged due to the degrading standards of mainstream journalism, and putting restrictions on that will just conceal the real picture. Bloggers being asked to show more responsibility in terms of not falsifying news and opinions is fair, but don’t take away the right to express an opinion for we are human and not cattle that you can control, milk or eat.
Although in many ways we are being consumed alive with the corruption, pollution and poor standards of living, but we still have functional brains. Though some of us can’t distort reality nor can we escape it, the least we can do is talk about it and try to make a change, and is this what they cannot stand? We don’t want change, we are happy sitting in our comfy chairs while nearly 70% of the people in Mumbai live in slums.
You can also read on the Governments Crack Down on Bloggers in several countries.
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