Don’t Shoot the Messenger: The ‘Un-Social’ Strategy #Censorship #FOE


 

August 28, 2012

When the Jasmine revolution swept up the Arab spring, detractors around the world said democratic nations would be safe. The new media revolution would only help democracies engage further. This belief has held strong. Yet, those in the corridors of power, here in India, have felt increasingly uncomfortable. This is unchartered territory. The government finds itself in a new information battlefield with no contingency plan. The manipulation of the social media in allegedly spurring the mass exodus of north east Indians from all over the country, fearing retaliation in the aftermath of the Assam violence, has only confirmed its worst fears.

The government reaction has been typical—censorship and crackdown. But naturally, the backlash to the decision has been equally loud, spurring a nationwide debate on internet freedom and government control. It is almost a sense of deja vu! The last time we saw television studio discussions this animated and newspaper editorials this frantic was during the peak of the “India Against Corruption” movement spearheaded by a septuagenarian Gandhian Anna Hazare. Social media in combination with television coverage gave the movement an unprecedented momentum that had the establishment completely taken by surprise. The impulsive reaction then too was an immediate crackdown on social media websites. The only difference was that then the millions out on the street were protesting misgovernance, today they are fleeing for their safety.

Here are two examples: one that pledges to test the true strength of our democracy and the other that exposes the helplessness of the establishment to guarantee and assure its citizens safety against hate crimes. In both cases, what is obvious is the manipulation of the messenger. Clearly, the establishment has been sitting this game out. With no tools at its disposal, or specialists aware of the advances in the new communication genre, the government is simply overwhelmed. The glare of 24×7 news coverage hastens reaction time resulting in predictable statements threatening crackdown and censorship. In fact, some television journalists believe that it was relentless pressure from social media followers of various networks that actually propelled sustained television coverage of the Assam violence.1 The new media impact is clearly here to stay.

In response to this, according to the most recent reports from Guwahati, the government has banned 250 websites, which, it alleges, fuelled the communal fears.2 The Indian government has also stated that it possesses evidence against a Pakistan-based hardline group that is alleged to have been involved in doctoring images and spreading them across Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and other such websites to incite people and create panic among people from the north east living across India.3 The Prime Minister’s Office has asked Twitter to remove all fake account handles floated in the name of the Prime Minister.4 While Twitter relented partially, Google and Facebook have responded to government pressure by citing legal tangles and redirecting requests to Uncle Sam.5 The US government, incidentally, urged India a few days ago to maintain internet freedom amid reports of a crackdown.6

This episode, which has started the controversy on social media and regulation, begs many questions to be answered. First, can the authorities truly blame social media alone for the ramifications of the violence in Assam to the hate crimes in Pune, protests in Mumbai and the exodus from Bangalore? Second, if rumours alone could trigger mass exodus, there also looms the larger question of integration and identity of citizens from the north east with the rest of India. As a nation we have failed to assure them of their safety. Finally, violence in Assam still continues despite government clampdowns on social media. So, are we really missing the wood for the trees?

If one were to leave the politics aside and look at the bigger picture, India and its governance machinery have stood exposed to a massive cyber security challenge and put themselves in an awkward position both domestically and internationally. Experts on cyber security admit that even reports on cyber security that provide policy recommendations to the government have often overlooked the aspect of dealing with social media. But can we afford to do this any longer?

According to a survey analysis on social media usage in India, of the TRAI listed 121 million internet users 46 million are monthly active Facebook users (which has made India dethrone Indonesia from the second spot of most frequent Facebook usage).7 Twitter has a total user base of more than 14 million in India, which is also the sixth largest country in terms of personal accounts.8 This by no means is a small number. It also reflects the changing patterns of communication among urban India. This is an audience that the government needs to reach out to.

While appreciating the effort taken by the government and various departments to engage with the new media phenomenon, one but has to ask – in the face of these staggering numbers, is hosting twitter handles and facebook account links on government pages enough? Routine schedules of meetings and press releases aside, do the authorities engage and exploit the potential of the new media to their advantage? Most importantly is a there a method to this madness?

Perhaps there is, but the problem lies herein. We have never heard it out and aloud. Or at least that is the perception. The messages don’t seem to get through the clutter. The problem seems to stem from the organisational culture and mindset, which has still not embraced the phenomenon that is the new media revolution. So every time there is a problem that stems up in the space, the establishment’s impulsive reaction is to shut down.

Journalists reporting on the ground in Assam confirm that there has still been no effort from either the state government or the centre in using the social media and other forms of communication to counter the rumour mongers creating havoc in the state. All the efforts have been concentrated on clamping down on websites with offensive content. This approach is necessary, but reactive. Could authorities have invested in a plan to communicate assurances of protection and safety to the people in the affected areas? The Prime Minister’s speech in both houses of Parliament may not have been heard by a villager in a relief camp in Assam.

For the government, the internet has always been a tool for better governance and its application has been technical, with issues of e-governance handled by technocrats. Not much thought has been given to the aspect of content and here lies its biggest shortcoming. 9 Now having come under strident criticism, the Centre has “fine tuned its cyber strategy by setting up a dedicated panel to screen websites…. [and] deciding against a blanket ban of Twitter handles it has sought to set up a panel to screen every URL or website that intelligence and technical agencies believe should be blocked.”10 However, in the interim, the passing of orders and their subsequent retraction, amplified by clumsy press releases, has resulted in the government clearly losing the perception battle.11

Yet, many believe that pushing the bureaucracy to develop a proactive approach to communicating with the people and simultaneously developing a system to regulate social media content is also beset with systemic problems. The issue is two pronged – social media monitoring and media engagement. The NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation), the apex intelligence body under the National Security Advisor, still does not have an official mandate of a monitoring agency. Ironically, it has only 50 people to handle media monitoring for the entire nation.12 On the other hand, if one required authorities to engage and counter propaganda, the most common refrain is the predicament of the fear of the Official Secrets Act that hovers above like the sword of Damocles. “Larger issues of governance stuck in the paradigm of the colonial era mindset stand in the way of efforts to counter offensive propaganda and project a robust image of the country”, says Josy Joseph, Senior Journalist with the Times of India.13

Censorship and crackdown can only be interim solutions. We need to look at alternative models that don’t normatively take away the idea of India as a healthy democracy and draw negative comparisons with China. The immediate need is to communicate strategically and not shoot the messenger.

  1. 1. Based on conversation with Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Senior Editor, NDTV 24×7, August 26, 2012.
  2. 2. “North East Exodus : Govt bans more than 250 websites”, August 20, 2012, The Imphal Free Press, available at http://www.ifp.co.in/imphal-free-press-full-story.php?newsid=8773&catid=1, accessed on August 23, 2012.
  3. 3. Ibid.
  4. 4. “PMO statement on social media”, August 24, 2012, available at http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=86733, accessed on August 25, 2012.
  5. 5. Anuradha Shukla, “North East Exodus: Google, Facebook ask want govt to seek US help to share info on web pages with inflammatory content”, India Today, August 22, 2012, available at http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/government-google-twitter-facebook-un…, accessed on August 23, 2012.
  6. 6. “US urges India to respect Internet Freedom”, First post.com, August 22, 2012, available at http://www.firstpost.com/world/us-urges-india-to-respect-internet-freedo…, accessed on August 24, 2012.
  7. 7. “Social media Usage in India expected to rise in 2012: Analysis & Outlook,” available at http://www.slideshare.net/rajeshdgr8/social-media-india-2012 from www.indiasocial.in, accessed on August 26, 2012.
  8. 8. Ibid.
  9. 9. Based on views presented in a discussion on “Rising controversies around social media,” by Dr. Cherian Samuel, IDSA, August 27, 2012.
  10. 10. Josy Joseph & Vishwa Mohan, “Panel to screen websites to weed out offensive content,” Times of India, August 24, 2012 , available at http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-24/internet/33365330…, accessed on August 25, 2012.
  11. 11. For more, see “Home Minister’s Statement on Net Restrictions”, Press Information Bureau, August 24, 2012, available at http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=86733 accessed on August 27, 2012.
  12. 12. Based on conversation with Josy Joseph, Editor-Special Projects, Times of India, August 26, 2012.
  13. 13. Ibid.

The Truth: Gujarat 2002 – The convicted Rioters #mustwatch #Narendramodi #Gujarat


Ashish Khaitan, the journalist from a private news channel who had carried out a sting operation on a number of persons associated with Hindu outfits and accused in the 2002 riots.In the sting operation that was broadcast in 2007, a number of persons were seen making claims about their role in the riots. 

Babu Bajrangi

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfnTl_Fwvbo

Ramesh Dave

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DRS0WyGJVo&feature=relmfu

Haresh Bhatt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJWApVpLVpQ&feature=relmfu

Arvind Pandya

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9KlevWeYrE

Bharat Bhatt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvZY4XAnJvM&feature=relmfu

Hanging the hashtag #Censorship #FOE #FOS #internetfreedom


Image

Abhijit Majumder, Hindustan Times
August 28, 2012
 
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled – Jesus Christ

It is embarrassing now, and after a few years, it may be even more embarrassing to be reminded of this moment. To be reminded that some of us journalists had actually campaigned for

 

State censorship. This is perhaps unprecedented in the history of journalism.

In the last few days, some senior journalists have persistently called for “regulation” of social media, the bewildering organism that wouldn’t stop growing. They have, by accident or design, allied with a bungling and cornered government.

Together, the government and the journalists have blamed rumour-mongering on social media for the spread of violence in the country over the Northeast riots. They cited it to call for what they termed “limited censorship” on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.

The government, emboldened and pleasantly surprised to suddenly have a section of the media co-cheering its little autocratic project, first went about reportedly blocking half a dozen spoofs of the PM and the PM’s office. For instance, the parody handle, @PM0India, which tweeted uncharitable stuff about the PM and the Congress, was blocked. Indians apparently are so dim that they might believe our PM takes potshots at himself on Twitter the whole day.

But beneath the veneer of self-righteous disapproval of “hate propaganda”, the government and the senior journalists possibly have a far more earthy and personal reason to unite against social media: insult.

A small but vocal section of Twitter users, known as trolls direct abuses at public personalities. Technology has provided a ‘Block’ button to deal with this bunch, and commonsense supplements it with an invisible ‘Ignore’ button. But for champions of censorship, those are not enough. They are fed up with 24X7 barrage of abuse, and the NE threats, rumours and violence gives them a perfect opportunity to turn their attention from the hatemongers in the real world to the delinquents of the virtual world.

Here are some thoughts on the rationale presented for censorship:

* No social media, no rumours? Bombay, Gujarat, Sikh riots and other cases of mass violence did not need social media to spread. In Bombay ’93, I remember a short, swift rumour blazing across the city before the backlash to the Radhabai chawl killings began: ‘Bal Thackeray arrested.’ Twitter and Facebook were not even conceived then; SMS was just out of science’s womb. Lord Ganesh started drinking milk on September 21, 1995, long before TV reporters could rub sleep out of their eyes. The media had to scramble to capture the mysteriously speedy rumours; rumours didn’t follow the media. During the Arab Spring, every dictator from Hosni Mubarak to Ben Ali tried to stifle social media, only to fail and attract more popular wrath.

* Don’t shoot the medium: You can’t ban aeroplanes after an air crash. You can’t attack a knife because you cut your finger in the kitchen. Similarly, you can’t go putting virtual terrain out of bounds because some use it irresponsibly.

* You don’t make the law here: A newspaper or channel sells information to an audience under well-defined social, ethical, legal and commercial contracts. But social media is not bound by such understanding. You may ignore every word of it. It has still not been conclusively established whether social media is in the public or private domain or in a strange twilight zone. It doesn’t and won’t ever play by your rules. If you still want to punish somebody for abuse or defamation, sue them.

* Hunt for terrorists, not trolls: We should have robust intelligence presence on social media, look out for the real troublemakers who are planning attacks against the nation.

* Take lampooning with a laugh: The art of lampooning is the sign of an evolved society. And the even the most obnoxious verbal abuse is not reason enough for the government to step in as the bully. The Queen inspires at least two dozen spoof accounts. Each funnier than the other, sometimes nasty, but we know it is not the Queen tweeting.

* Rage vs Insecurity: Social media uses its teeth of direct feedback pretty ruthlessly. It may be uninformed, rabid, harbouring a sly agenda and abusive, but it constantly challenges mainstream media’s own commercial and political agendas, slants, political correctness. To journalists’ dismay as well as delight, it even breaks news. While this turf war for information is inevitable, the two are destined to co-exist. While social media is here for good, large and credible news organisations will exist because gathering, presenting and legally defending news is very expensive.

* Give a finger, they’ll want arm: Once you ally with the government on censoring any kind of media, it is not going to stop there. It is going to come and bite you some day. Popular tweeter @FakingNews nicely twists Pastor Martin Niemoller’s lines on Nazis in today’s Indian context: “First they came for those who I considered bigots, and I didn’t speak out because I thought I wasn’t a bigot.”

Celebrities, politicians, journalists thronged to social media, petted it, earned the following of lakhs. It is when they wanted it to feed off their hands that they discovered a very different animal, one with tantalising contradictions – moody and constant, funny and angry, fawning and sarcastic, all-knowing and uninformed, sycophantic and abusive at the same time. The only place where you get ‘irreverent followers’.

Pop group One Direction’s Zayn Malik recently quit Twitter “sick of all the useless opinions”. So did singer Miley Cyrus and Press Council of India’s boss Justice Markandey Katju. Many more may follow them.

This creature called social media is way beyond our individual or institutional control. Because this creature is us.

Former Gujarat minister, 31 others convicted in Naroda-Patiya case


 

PTI

In this March 28, 2009 photo, then Gujarat Minister Mayaben Kodnani is being taken to a court in Ahmedabad. A special court has convicted Ms. Kodnani in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case. Photo: PTI
PTIIn this March 28, 2009 photo, then Gujarat Minister Mayaben Kodnani is being taken to a court in Ahmedabad. A special court has convicted Ms. Kodnani in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case. Photo: PTI

BJP MLA and former minister in the Narendra Modi government Maya Kodnani and a Bajrang Dal leader were among 32 people convicted by a special court today in the 2002 Naroda-Patiya riots case in which more than 90 people belonging to the minority community were killed.

Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik held Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi guilty under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of IPC in the post-Godhra riots case, while acquitting 29 others.

The quantum of sentence is likely to be announced later.

The massacre had taken place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.

On February 28, 2002 when a bandh call was given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a large crowd gathered in the Naroda-Patiya area and attacked people belonging to minority community that resulted in the death of more than 90 people while 33 others were injured in the violence.

The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 accused. One of the accused, Vijay Shetty, died during the course of the trial.

As many as 327 witnesses, comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials, forensic experts and journalists including Ashish Khetan, who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, have been examined by the court.

Initially, 46 people were arrested by the Gujarat Police, whereas 24 more people were apprehended after the probe was handed over to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2008. In all, 70 people were arrested in the case.

Six persons died before the charges could be framed and trial started, while two others identified as Mohan Nepali and Tejas Pathak jumped bail and are still absconding.

Kodnani was arrested by the SIT when she was a minister of state for women and child development in Modi government in March 2009. She was an MLA at the time of the incident.

India court upholds Mumbai attacker Qasab death penalty


 

 

 

Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab in the middle of the attacks
Qasab was found guilty of mass murder

 

India’s Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

The judges also rejected his claim that he had been denied a fair trial.

A trial court convicted Qasab, 24, of murder and other crimes in May 2010. His first appeal was rejected by the Mumbai High Court in February 2011.

The Mumbai attacks claimed 165 lives. Nine gunmen were also killed.

“In view of the nature of the gravity of his crime and the fact that he participated in waging war against the country, we have no option but to uphold his death penalty,” Supreme Court Justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad ruled on Wednesday morning.

Prosecutor Gopal Subramaniam hailed the verdict as “a complete victory of the due processes of law”.

“It was a case argued in a completely professional and dispassionate manner,” Mr Subramaniam said.

Qasab can now make a plea for clemency to the president.

The trial court in Mumbai had found Qasab guilty on 3 May 2010 of murder, terrorist acts and waging war on India and sentenced him to death.

The 60-hour siege of Mumbai began on 26 November 2008, targeting luxury hotels, the main railway station and a Jewish cultural centre.

Qasab and an accomplice carried out the assault on the station, killing 52 people.

India blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks.

After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged that the assault had been partially planned on its territory and that Qasab was a Pakistani citizen.

Naroda Patiya case verdict: 32 convicted, 29 acquitted #Narendramodi #Gujarat


 
Mahesh Langa, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad, August 29, 2012
 
 
A special trial court has convicted 32 people  while 29 accused have been acquitted in the Naroda Patiya massacre case.  The trial court has convicted Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajarangi also. Bajarangi was one of the key accused in the case. Rioters had massacred 97 people in Naroda Patiya on February 28, 2002, making it the largest single case of mass murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out following the Godhra train carnage.

 The special trial court had scheduled the judgment for Wednesday. Naroda MLA and former minister Dr Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi are among the 61 accused in the case.

Trial in the case had began in 2009 after the Supreme Court appointed SIT carried out further probe in the case.

 “We are anxious, scared and don’t know what will happen. We are hoping that justice will finally be done to us,” Shakeela Banu, who lost eight members of her family in the riots, said on Tuesday.

Many witnesses in the case are jittery, having told the court how the rioters targeted women and children and set houses on fire.

“By deposing, we have taken a big risk because the accused are powerful. But we have faith in the judiciary,” said Salim Sheikh whose son was killed in the riots.

According to state government records, of more than 1,200 people killed in the 2002 riots, nearly 950 were Muslims.

So far, trial courts have delivered verdicts in the Sardarpura massacre case, Ode village massacre case and Dipda Darwaja massacre case, besides the Godhra train carnage case.

 Verdicts are awaited in the Naroda Gaon massacre case, Gulbarg Society case and Prantij riots case in which three British nationals were killed in north Gujarat.

BOX: Case of largest single mass murder during 2002 riots

Rioters massacred 97 people in Naroda Patiya locality on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train carnage in which 57 kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya were charred to death 

Houses were set on fire in the lower middle-class Muslim locality, rendering more than 800 families homeless

Former BJP minister Maya Kodnani — Naroda MLA uninterrupted since 1998 — and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi are among the 62 accused in the case

Former VHP general secretary Dr Jaidip Patel was not made accused in the case despite demands by witnesses

 

TATADOCOMO #censorship on wordpress- step by step guide #FOE


So how is the censorship of TATA working on wordpress blogs, for last one week for me . I do not know If   I was lucky to leave my wordpress.blog,  logged on my laptop hence  I can pen the link  http://wordpress.com/#!/post/ it opens and then this is what happens , have a look yourself

Image)

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So now,  I cannot see the post on my blog, i copy the url link and post on egroups, Fb and other forums to share . the tagging does not work and now once published i cannot edit, its gone after i click publish button, my own post is inaccessible to me . The dashboard, never ever opens, only the stats and write post, the first pic which you sees above opens.

So i wonder technically its complete block, and that might be intentional to say that atleats 50 % functions can be performed and its a technical snag on Tata’s part, just thinking from devil Tata’s mind :-).

I have sent my compliant to Tata, you can see here https://www.facebook.com/notes/kamayani-bali-mahabal/complaint-to-tatadocmo-on-the-blanket-ban-on-wordpresscom/10152072518095179

Now i await their reply !!!

suggestions, comments welcome :-)- although i will nto be able to approve thanks to censorship but i will be able to read them

 

Justice A P Shah: India should join nations abolishing death penalty #musread


 

 | Aug 29, 2012, 12.00AM IST

 
Justice A P Shah: India should join nations abolishing the death sentence
Justice A P Shah
Justice A P Shah, author of the verdict decriminalising homosexuality, is amongst 14 retired judges who have recently attacked certain death penalties awarded by the Supreme Court. Speaking with Manoj Mitta , the former chief justice of the Delhi high court discussed this unusual form of judicial activism, why deciding the death penalty is so difficult – and why India should join other nations abolishing this punishment:

The Supreme Court usually has an aura of infallibility – what made you sign a letter telling the president it had wrongly imposed death sentences in numerous cases?

The issue involved the imminent execution of 13 persons in seven cases, even after the Supreme Court admitted on three occasions recently that its earlier judgments sentencing these persons to death were erroneous. Two similarly situated persons have already been executed pursuant to these flawed judgments – the Supreme Court’s admission of error came too late for them.

The errors occurred beca-use two-judge benches deviated from the liberal law laid down by a five-judge bench in the 1980 Bachan Singh case. How did these benches go astray?

The Supreme Court came up with the solution of ‘rarest of rare cases’ for imposing the death penalty. Bachan Singh’s case gave sufficient weight to the mitigating circumstances of the crime and the criminal. In the case of Ravji, decided by two judges, the Supreme Court explicitly held that it is the gravity of the crime but not the criminal which is relevant to decide appropriate punishment. Thus, Ravji’s case is in direct conflict with the Bachan Singh ruling. The court in Bariyar’s case noticed the conflict and held that seven of its judgments awarding the death sentence were rendered per incuriam, meaning out of error or ignorance.

Following Bariyar’s case, two more judgments condemned the illegal trend of disregarding the Bachan Singh mandate. Why has the Supreme Court not taken corrective action?

The judgments, according to the Supreme Court’s own admission, rendered per incuriam constituted the gravest known miscarriage of justice in the history of crime and punishment in India. The Supreme Court could have reopened those cases in exercise of its discretionary power under Article 142 of the Constitution and taken corrective measures to deliver complete justice to the prisoners. The absence of such measures forced the retired judges to send the appeal to the president.

Can there be a foolproof system of ensuring the death penalty is awarded only in the rarest of rare cases?

The criterion of rarest of rare cases hasn’t resulted in any satisfactory solution. The Supreme Court’s attempt to regulate capital punishment has been unsuccessful on its own terms. Courts and governments worldwide have tried and failed to lay down satisfactory and clear criteria eliminating arbitrariness, subjectivity and inconsistency from the death penalty. As pointed out by Justice V R Krishna Iyer, a legal policy on life or death cannot be left to ad hoc mood or individual predilection.

Do you personally believe India should join the growing number of nations abolishing the death sentence altogether?

Yes. India should join such nations as there is enough reason to believe that the legal safeguards aimed at avoiding a miscarriage of capital punishment have failed to deliver. Public opinion in India can no longer ignore the global movement in favour of abolition of the death penalty. A total of 130 out of 192 UN member states have abolished the death penalty in law or practice – India is one of the countries that retains the death penalty but rarely executes people.

It’s time we accepted that capital punishment neither has any deterrent effect, nor can it be counted as a preventive measure.

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