#India- don’t focus too much on individuals in the battle against sexual violence, #Censorship #Vaw

PRERNA BAKSHI, The Hindu  #India-Towards a Decisive Victory in the Historic Battle for Women’s Rights

Against the recent backdrop of the gang rape incident in Delhi, rapper Honey Singh found himself surrounded by a number of protesting activists and NGOs. Some of his songs have come under the scanner and have been termed by these activists as offensive towards women.

However, the rapper himself has denied being associated with one such song which has in particular grabbed attention for demeaning women. The song has been doing the rounds on internet for quite some time even though neither the management nor the singer has claimed responsibility towards the ownership of the song.

While the trueownership of this song could be debatable, the question that needs to be asked is should this matter be given the amount of attention it has and more specifically, are songs such as those made by Honey Singh responsible for the growing rape and sexual violence towards women.

While it would be true to say that many of the contemporary songs do objectify women (of which Bollywood has a lot to answer for) which further affects the position of women in society, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture while making such claims.

On New Year’s Eve, Honey Singh was forced to withdraw from the show at Bristol Hotel where he was scheduled to perform. Many people on social media celebrated the occasion by terming it the ‘first battle won’ on the first day of the New Year. It is here where the masses, activists and progressives need to take a step back and reassess their goals and strategies in a manner which does not over generalize and trivialize the issue at stake.

While there is not enough space in this article to look deeply at these issues, I have highlighted them in order to contribute to the debate about both the causes of gender violence, and the debate about what can and should be done about it.

A few points must be taken into account. Firstly, by focusing primarily on a single agenda and on a single individual, notwithstanding how achievable or worthwhile it is, we lose sight of more significant issues, thereby weakening the argument and the cause itself. By no means should any form of derogatory remarks towards women be tolerated in songs or public speeches but it should be recognized that removing sexism in songs and speeches, though helpful, cannot in itself fix the problem.

Secondly, by focusing on silencing the sexist elements within one’s speech without taking into account the existing power structures prevalent within the society, any efforts made in this direction would prove to be futile in the long run. It is for this reason the ultimate goal should be to alter the existing gender power differentials by aiming for a radical social transformation in order to truly achieve its ultimate aim of women emancipation. This cannot take place without altering the very power structures that have given rise to the ideology that gets manifested in speech towards women. Thirdly, devoting too much time and resources in shutting down the activities of people like Honey Singh would unnecessarily shift the focus of the debate from the praxis of gender relations to a debate about freedom of speech and would end up dividing public opinion and complicating matters further.

This is not a suggestion that time and effort should not be spent in protesting against such people but rather that it is imperative to address and correct their sexist and misogynistic attitudes. It is also not suggested that people should have the right to free speech no matter how violent and discriminating it may be towards women but that it has to be met with responsibility and accountability. The only necessary point is to refrain from over generalizing the effects of certain songs on the whole praxis of gender relations and not to attribute certain songs wholly as the cause of sexual violence and rape crises prevalent in the society.

Fourthly, caution is to be exercised whilst advocating for a ban or censorship of certain songs as doing this could further provide an impetus to the reactionary conservative forces that could later use this move to further their own agenda of maintaining the status quo and perpetuating existing power structures and thus consequently could prove to be detrimental to a revolutionary change in the society.

Censorship may sound appealing when the censors are targeting people we dislike, but for anyone interested in social transformation, censorship is negative in the long run.It is for these reasons that attitudinal and discourse level changes cannot be brought about independently and remain strongly influenced by the material and structural conditions. Without a change on the structural level, any meaningful change would seem unattainable.


Trinamool MP against media censorship

Icon for censorship




Ananya Dutta, The Hindu, Jan 13, 2013


In the 20 months since the Trinamool Congress came to power in West Bengal, the government has been mired in controversies regarding suppression of freedom of expression, so senior party MP Saugata Roy’s remarks that he did not believe in censorship of the media here on Saturday appeared to be in a contrarian vein.

“I think the media should be left alone. That is why I am strongly against any form of censorship of the media,” Mr. Roy said at a panel discussion on “Has the media failed the people?” moderated by journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

Mr. Roy said that he did not think that media controls voters and he was not among those politicians to have “a love-hate relationship with the media.”

“When a person goes out to vote, he votes on the basis of his own experience, not on the basis of what is written in the press or what is broadcast in the media,” he added.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has often spoken against a section of the media, on occasion specifying television channels that she believes spread lies and canards about her government.

Her government has come under scrutiny for a notification that prescribed a limited list of newspapers that public libraries could subscribe to, even as allegations were made that certain papers are being denied government advertisements.

At the panel discussion, there was no consensus on whether the media had failed the people with Mr. Roy believing that it had “by and large failed the country” on the one hand and the editor of Aaj Tak and Headlines Today Rahul Khanwal proposing that it had not, largely because it is a “self-correcting animal.”

Admitting that “the media is guilty of a lot of sins” in recent times, from poor language to the cancer of paid news, Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Hindu argued “that the Indian media today does a far better job of informing the Indian public than it used to do thirty or forty years ago.”

He also pointed out that there are several other institutions which are also failing the people, citing the example of an expose of a fake encounter in Jammu and Kashmir that was conducted in March 2000. But a decade later, the trials of guilty soldiers were yet to commence.

“At the end of the day if you don’t trigger correction at the judicial level, at the political level or at the level of civil society, then there is only so much we can do,” he said.

Actor Rahul Bose turned the argument on its head questioning whether it was the people of India who had failed their media.

“After we finished collectively exulting at Ram Leela Maidan or lighting candles at India Gate or collectively shouting ourselves hoarse in some public forum we wait for the next problem to burst. Do we sustain the pressure? Do we support, recognise, encourage or fund organisations that have been fighting for those very causes for decades? Do we change attitudes within us,” he asked.

While Mr. Roy spoke at length about the change in the media from pre-Independence days to present times, Rudranghshu Mukherjee, editor of the editorial pages of The Telegraph, argued that the fall in ethical standards among politicians had been far greater than that among journalists.

Civil society activist Anjali Bhardwaj described at length the expectations that civil society has from the media and the extent to which it had fulfilled them. The session was organised by the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce


Fettering the fourth estate: Free Speech in 2012 #Censorship #FOE #media

Icon for censorship

Icon for censorship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

JANUARY 2, 2013, hoot.org



Fettering the Fourth Estate: Free Speech in 2012

report of the Free Speech Hub of the Hoot.org

The year 2012 ended with a Kannada TV reporter, Naveen Soorinje, in jail for more than fifty days after the Karnataka High Court denied him bail. Mangalore-based Soorinje, was incarcerated from November 7, 2012 after police charged him under the UAPA and under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for reporting on the raid on a homestay party by a Hindu fundamentalist group in July. Soorinje’s bail application was rejected on December 26.

The same month, a television journalist, Nanao Singh, was shot dead in a police firing in Manipur.

In 2012, India was a grim place for free speech. It recorded the death of five journalists. Another 38 were assaulted, harassed or threatened.    There were 43 instances of curbs on the Internet, 14 instances of censorship in the film and music industry, and eight instances of censorship of content in the print medium.

The year began with the brutal killing of journalist Chandrika Rai (42), his wife Durga (40) and their two teenage children — son Jalaj (19) and daughter Nisha (17) — at their residence in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria distict in February. Other journalists to die this year were Rajesh Mishra in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, Chaitali Santra in Kolkata and Raihan Naiyum, in Assam.

We list and detail below all the incidents which occurred in the course of the year.


1. Journalists killed


2. Journalists assaulted, harassed or threatened


3. Censorship of content in print medium


4. Censorship in the electronic medium


5. Censorship of literature, art, education, theatre


6. Censorship in film and music industry


7. Curbs on internet medium


8. Limits on mobile medium


9. Arson at media establishments


10. Hate speech


11. Information or access denied


12. Surveillance issues


13. Privacy and defamation


14. Legislative issues


That the death toll of journalists would have been higher, is clear by the brutality of the assaults and threats to journalists: Thongam Rina, associate editor of Arunachal Times, was shot at and critically injured in July; Kamal Shukla in Chhattisgarh was assaulted by a local politician because he wrote a story on illegal tree-felling in Koelibeda, the constituency of the state’s forest minister Vikram Usendi; in Gujarat’s Palampur district, television journalist Devendra Khandelwal was attacked with iron pipes by relatives of MLA Mafatlal Purohit for reporting their involvement in illegal construction.

Sec 66 (a) and internet freedom

The 41 instances of free speech violations related to internet use in the Free Speech Hub’s ‘Free Speech Tracker’ testify to the growing use and abuse of this medium. Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan, two young Facebook users, in Palghar, Maharashtra, in October, were arrested under the draconian Sec 66 (a) of the Information Technology Act, one for posting a critical status comment on the shutdown of the city in the wake of the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and the other for ‘liking’ the post! The nation-wide protest that followed forced a review of the charges against them and a closure report by police. However, they will still have to wait till January 2013 for the formal dropping of charges against them.

Already, the fears over the misuse of the controversial Section (66 A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, were confirmed by other instances: the arrest of two Jadavpur University professors in April 2012 for their e-mails on the cartoons poking fun at that projected West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee;  the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for sedition, for insulting national honour and for sending offensive messages under Sec 66 (a) of the IT Act in August 2012: two employees of Air-India, Mayank Sharma and KVJ Rao, who were sacked (and reinstated after the protests) after their arrest over a Facebook post, three youth arrested in Kashmir for allegedly anti-Islamic posts and the arrest of industrialist AS Ravi for tweeting about Karti Chidamnaram, son of Union minister for P Chidambaram.

Earlier, in June 2012, the union government ordered the blocking of  more than 250 sites and web pages following the widespread panic and exodus of people from the North East out of Pune, Delhi and Bangalore. Some accounts that disproved the morphed pictures and the propaganda were also blocked.

The Google Transparency Report put India top on the list of countries making demands to take down content.

Censorship in other media

Censorship continued in all arenas, from the literary and cinematic worlds, to art and theatre. Protests of vigilante groups against all manner of expression continued with political parties and social groups taking offence against film songs, dialogues and titles of movies, art exhibitions and theatre performances and even the use of mobile phones by women!

In May, the Human Resources Development Ministry’s attempt to expunge cartoons from NCERT and CBSE textbooks for their alleged anti-Dalit connotations sparked an inconclusive debate on casteism in educational content while the cancellation of Salman Rushdie’s proposed visit to the Jaipur Literary Festival in January only showed the pusillanimity of the state administration.

Covert state surveillance was on the rise, with an increase in government interception and monitoring of emails and telephone conversations, privacy violations and hate speech cases are also under the scanner.

(For further details of the cases and categories please click here)




Facebook bans when you post anything anti-israel- try it ! #censorship

Facebook is controlled by the same people who are in control of other media.Whenever I post anything against the Israeli aggression or against any Arab dictators my posts are deleted and I get warning or get punishment of not being able to post anything on FB, pls check the screen shots of the warnings- Rizvi https://www.facebook.com/Rizviz

The admins of occupy wallstreet group used to share  rizvi’s  posts which was liked and shared by 40-50 thousand members everyday.

Even they got similar messages and on of the admin was banned from FB.
In past he  was blocked for posting a cartoon of King Abdullah of KSA.
And it was very strange that he could not even post a link/photo against coca-cola on FB.
His posts were disappearing immediately on fb. without any warning.

Screen shot 2012-11-28 at 1.01.26 AM

Screen shot 2012-11-28 at 12.41.46 AM

Screen shot 2012-11-28 at 12.44.26 AM

he snet me by message following poem, am posting here as he cannot on facebook

Facebook logo

Facebook logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

मैं जानता हूँ कि तेरे पंख मेरी कल्पना के परे उड़ान भरने में समर्थ हैं
परन्तु मेरी कल्पना ही मेरा धर्म है
यदि उसके परे तू जायेगा तो तेरे पंख काट दिए जायेंगे।
पहले पंख काटने वाले मेरे धार्मिक पुलिस हवलदार हुआ करते थे
अब कैंची रखने का अधिकार महानिरीक्षक के ही पास है
लोगों का मानना है कि हवलदार ही धार्मिक हुआ करते हैं
महानिरीक्षक पंख काटने में समझदारी दिखायेंगे
अब मुझपर बेइंसाफ होने की उँगलियाँ नहीं उठाई जाएँगी
मगर तू मेरी कल्पना के परे उड़ान भी नहीं भर सकेगा
मैं जब चाहूँ, जिसको चाहूँ, जिस समय चाहूँ
उठा कर ला सकता हूँ
हवालात में बलि चढ़ा सकता हूँ
या बीस साल तक काल कोठरी में रख कर
तेरी उड़ने कि क्षमता समाप्त होने पर
बाइज्ज़त बरी कर सकता हूँ
विश्व्यापी है मेरा धर्म और उसके मानने वाले
न तू सात समुन्दर दूर अमरीका में बच पायेगा
न रूस के किसी गिरजा घर में
न अरब में न इरान में
न ही चीन या जापान में
तेरा समय समाप्त हो चुका है
कबीर के साथ, ग़ालिब के साथ
वाल्मीकि पर अन्याय कर के तुलसी बच निकला
इन्टरनेट होता तो कोई बच नहीं पाता
यहाँ फड़फड़ाने से ज्यादा तू कुछ नहीं कर सकता
अब सारे इनाम, नोबेल पुरस्कार, भारत रत्न
मेरी कल्पना में ही सीमित विषयों पर मिलते हैं
इनाम पाओ उड़ान भूल जाओ


THE CARTOONS below have been banned, friends and myself cnanot see on mozilla firefox , but i can see on google chroome as it is connected to gmail account, one of my friends informed, hence i am sharing FACEBOOK ALBUM hope all can see the cartoons, PL DO COMMENT if you can see or not



#India-“Twitter Arrest”-why Indians should be afraid of IT Act’s sweeping Sec 66A

Why was an Indian man held for sending a tweet?

By Prasanto K RoyTechnology writer,

Ravi Srinivasan Ravi Srinivasan has refused to apologise for his tweet
  • 6 November 2012, BBC news

How can a virtually unknown Indian boost his Twitter following a hundred-fold overnight?

Ravi Srinivasan did it by becoming the first person in India to be arrested for a tweet. The 46-year-old runs a packaging business in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry.

On 20 October, he posted a tweet to his 16 followers saying that Karti Chidambaram, a politician belonging to India’s ruling Congress party and son of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, had “amassed more wealth than Vadra”.

He was alluding to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, who was at the centre of a political row after allegations over his links with a top Indian property firm. Mr Vadra denies the charges.

Karti Chidambaram (@KartiPC) did not take the tweet in good humour and filed a police complaint on 29 October.

He later tweeted: “Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets.”

Explosion of support

The police in Pondicherry acted with unusual speed.

They arrested Mr Srinivasan early next morning, charged him under Section 66A of India’s Information Technology [IT] Act, and demanded 15 days of police custody. Pondicherry’s chief judicial magistrate declined remand and granted bail.

There was an explosion of support for Mr Srinivasan, who refused to apologise. He became a hero on prime-time television. His Twitter following (@ravi_the_indian) grew from 16 to 2,300 in 48 hours.

Anti-corruption campaigners have questioned the motive of the police and the Congress party: Mr Srinivasan is a volunteer campaigner himself.

Karti ChidambaramKarti Chidambaram said ‘free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions’

Mr Srinivasan did make an unverified allegation. Mr Chidambaram could have used the libel and defamation laws. But India’s libel laws are complex. You have to prove that you were defamed.

The police action triggered concern about India’s increasing use of Section 66A of the IT Act of 2000, amended in 2008.

Section 66A is sweeping in its powers.

It can send you to jail for three years for sending an email or other electronic message that “causes annoyance or inconvenience”.

On the face of it, this protects citizens against online harassment.

In reality, the law is more often used by the state as a weapon against dissent. In each such case, police action has been swift and harsh.

In April, the West Bengal government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee used Section 66A against a teacher who had emailed to friends a cartoon that was mildly critical of her.

Police arrested the professor and his septuagenarian neighbour at midnight on 12 April, and kept them in “protective custody” for days.

In August, West Bengal’s Human Rights Commission asked the state government to take action against two police officers and pay compensation to the professor and his neighbour.

The arrest in Calcutta had triggered outrage in social media, and a wave of Mamata Banerjee jokes with an #arrestmenow tag on Twitter.

The arbitrariness of Section 66A was evident again – it didn’t matter if a cartoon had been published before, or who drew it. If you emailed it to friends, you could be charged under Section 66A and thrown into jail.

Sweeping powers

And there were other cases across India.

In the north Indian city of Chandigarh, 22-year-old Henna Bakshi’s SUV was stolen in August.

A month later, the police had still not registered a complaint. Frustrated, Ms Bakshi posted a strongly-worded note on the city police’s Facebook page in September.

The police slapped a case under section 66A on Ms Bakshi who, as a 10-year-old, had incidentally received a bravery award from India’s prime minister for fighting robbers and helping bust a gang.

The message to Indian citizens, say activists, is: Be afraid. Be very afraid of Section 66A of the IT Act: it can send you to jail for a careless comment.

Trinamool Congress party leader Mamata Banerjee Ms Banerjee’s government used the law against a teacher who emailed cartoons

The law is convenient, sweeping, and certain of hitting just about any target as long as there is authoritative backing.

There are very few examples of Section 66A being used fairly, to the end of justice.

One was the case of popular Tamil singer and entrepreneur Chinmayi Sripada, 28, who ignored years of “trolling” or online harassment.

Finally, on 18 October, she filed a police complaint following vulgar tweets.

The Chennai police registered a case under Section 66A, and Tamil Nadu’s Prevention of Harassment of Women law. An associate professor in a private fashion institute and a government employee were arrested.

Ms Chinmayi’s celebrity status helped. It is less likely that an ordinary citizen who is harassed online could persuade the police to file a case so easily.

On a TV news channel, Ravi Srinivasan said that a close relative who had his motorbike stolen a year ago was still trying to get the Pondicherry police to register a report.

And, interestingly, Section 66A has never been used against politicians.

Senior politician and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy made stronger corruption allegations against Karti Chidambaram twice this year.

But no action was taken against Mr Swamy, who has now offered to help with Mr Srinivasan’s legal defence.

India needs to make Section 66A far more specific and transparent.

As long as this law remains so very loosely worded and sweeping in its powers, many fear it will remain a powerful weapon to manage dissent by the Indian state.

Prasanto K Roy (Twitter @prasanto) is editorial advisor at CyberMedia, a leading technology publishing group in India.

#India- FM radio stations under scanner #Censorship #FOE #FOS

FM radio stations under govt's scanner

The government is planning to set up a facility that will monitor the programme content that is broadcast on FM Radio stations during the 12th Five year plan. Information and Broadcasting secretary Uday Kumar Varma said there was a need to monitor radio content as nearly 800 more FM channels are likely to come up in the next couple of years.

Speaking at a function at the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) here, he said, “The whole world of monitoring of radio content is still to be handled and addressed in a meaningful manner. We do have a mechanism but I think we need to keep that mechanism evolving. With 800 plus FM channels expected to come in next one to three years, there will be quite a handful that will need to be addressed”.

He said private channels in the coming days would get permission to broadcast news which makes the need to monitor content important. “They will begin with AIR news but local news in any case, they may be allowed to generate and broadcast and that would have several manifestations which will need to be monitored,” Varma said.

Later speaking to PTI, Ranjana Dev Sarmah, Director EMMC said the content monitoring body was planning to expand its operations to include radio content and increase the number of television channels. “During the 12th five year plan period, we intend to set up the mechanism to monitor radio content as per the I&B ministry’s instructions,” Sarmah said.

“We also plan to increase the number of TV channels which are monitored from the current 300 to upto 1200 in the coming days,” he said. The EMMC is a department under the I&B ministry which monitors TV content round-the-clock and reports violations of rules and also carries out analysis. Earlier in his speech, the I&B secretary said EMMC was presently confined to satellite transmission but with the onset of digitisation of cable services, new technologies could be looked in to to see what content goes into the cable viewers’ homes.

Varma said that analysis of television content was another challenge that faced the EMMC. “It is good to know which channel is transmitting what kind of programme….which channel is the one which actually uses maximum time for advertisements on may be weekly basis or half yearly basis,” he said. “What kind of rural reporting the channels actually resort to in terms of their overall time devoted to matters which relate to the villages of India or developmental dimensions of the country…may be women, may be children or may be physically challenged and then there are sensitive analysis from the political point of view,” Varma added.

Secretary I&B said that the EMMC could set up its own Research and Analysis Wing which could be known as EMMC – RAW.

Press Trust Of India

Freedom to criticize religion is a touchstone of free expression’ #censorship #FOE


by Farooq Sulehria

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence

Muslims should ‘simply ignore the crazy provocations,’ Gilbert Achcar says. He thinks that those who engaged in violent protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video did exactly what the video’s production team were hoping for as a result of their provocation.

Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Among his books are The Clash of Barbarisms, which came out in a second expanded edition in 2006; a book of dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (2nd edition in 2008); and most recently The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). His next book analyzing the Arab upheaval will come out in the spring of 2013.

While Achcar strongly condemns Islamophobic hate material, he rejects any curtailment of free speech in the name of preventing blasphemy. ‘Freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression,’ he says in an interview with Farooq Sulehria for Pakistan’s Viewpoint Online.

Q: A decade after your book The Clash of Barbarisms, written in the aftermath of 9/11, it seems that the situation has only worsened. A caricature in an obscure newspaper, an immature video: anything can ignite a ‘clash of barbarisms’ disguised as a ‘clash of civilisations’. How would you analyse the ongoing wave of protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video in parts of the Muslim world?

Gilbert Achcar (GA): The clash of barbarisms that I analysed should not be seen through the lens of such incidents, but rather through much more serious issues such as Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq, the torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the increasing resort of the USA to extra-judicial killings, etc. Such events do indeed represent setbacks in the civilizing process.

The reactive barbarism found in the Muslim world is mostly incarnated by al-Qaida and other ultra-fundamentalist currents such as the Taliban (whatever goes under this umbrella) and exhibited in much more serious events than the recent demonstrations, such as the dreadful and endless sectarian killings in Iraq, for instance.

These antagonistic barbarisms feed off each other. Of course, the main culprits remain the most powerful: the world powers, the Western powers as well as Russia, which have created this dynamic of adverse barbarisms in the first place.

Q: In Pakistan, at least, the mainstream discourse is to point out Western, especially US, hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of expression. ‘Holocaust denial is a crime,’ is a common refrain. Your comment?

GA: First of all, let us set the record straight. Denying Holocaust is a punishable offence only in some Western countries, not in all of them. It is not liable for punishment in the USA itself. Holocaust deniers freely publish their insanities in the US. This fact is disregarded by all those who use the ban on Holocaust denial as an argument against the USA.

As a matter of fact, there are laws against hate speech in all Western countries, except the US where the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any restriction to free speech. In upholding this principle, the US Supreme Court went so far, in 1977, as defending the right of the American Nazi Party to march through the village of Skokie a substantial proportion ofwhose inhabitants were Jewish concentration camp survivors. True, there have been violations of this right, particularly for Muslims in the US in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent surge of Islamophobia. But it remains always possible to fight back legally, and civil rights movements are active on such issues.

In Europe, when you feel you have been a victim of hate speech, you can resort to legal action. The question of Western double standard is usually raised with regard to Jews there, as it is much more difficult in Europe to articulate an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic speech than an Islamophobic one. But this state of affairs owes to two factors.

The first is Europe’s sense of guilt with regard to the Jewish genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the Second World War with much European complicity.

The second is that there are powerful Jewish institutions that react vigilantly against any gesture they deem anti-Semitic, often abusively by equating the critique of Israel with anti-Semitism. They are powerful, but note how they react. Not by holding violent demonstrations that would actually increase anti-Semitism, but by engaging in legal proceedings, publishing articles, and so on. Sometimes they even resort to what may be called intellectual terrorism in trying to intimidate critics of the Israeli state or Zionism with accusations of anti-Semitism.

This said, those who say that freedom of expression in the West is biased against Islam because it is less tolerant of anti-Jewish expression forget that the religion of the overwhelming majority in the West is not Judaism, but Christianity. When it comes to Christianity, Westerners are free to mock the Pope, Jesus Christ, or even God without fear of reprisals. Some of the major artistic and literary works in the West are satirical of Christianity or religion in general in ways that you can’t imagine nowadays when it comes to Islam in the Muslim world.

True, there are some Christian fundamentalist groups that can resort to violence every now and then against anti-religious works. But they are completely marginal. Their violence is punished by law and it never reaches the level of what has been done these last days in the name of religion, which is matched only by the violence of Jewish fundamentalist colonial settlers in Palestine. Moreover, one should not forget that freedom of expression in Europe – in the UK in particular – has been of much greater benefit to Islamic fundamentalists of all brands who sought a refuge there fleeing oppression in Muslim countries than it has to people committing provocations such as those we are discussing.

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence. Resorting to physical violence against a symbolic act is a sign of intellectual weakness. You remember how the Taliban destroyed the gigantic Buddhas in Bamyan. These Buddhas were a World Heritage Site. Did Buddhists react violently? In Egypt and Nigeria, Christians and churches have been repeatedly and bloodily attacked in recent months. Did you see violent demonstrations of Christians worldwide retaliating against Muslim countries? People appreciate the difference between the lunatic fringe that carries out attacks on Christians and the general Muslim population. Muslims should also realise that the violent Islamophobic lunatic fringe in Western countries is marginal, actually much more marginal than the violent Islamic fundamentalist lunatic fringe in Muslim countries.

Crazy provocations like the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film or the burning of Korans by the crackpot Terry Jones are best ignored. They are so stupid that they don’t deserve any reaction at all. The greatest service one can render to these provocateurs is to respond wildly to their provocations. Agitators are successful when they are able to arouse the feelings of the targeted group. This is why some people rightly argue that the ban on Holocaust denial in France, for instance, is counter-productive. Due to that ban, French Holocaust deniers have become very famous in France, whereas hardly anybody knows the name of US Holocaust deniers in the USA. Had nobody reacted to Terry Jones’s damn-fool provocations, they would have remained unknown, as have thousands of such anti-Islamic utterances. Had nobody paid attention to him, he would not have carried on his dreadful farce. These lunatics have an Islamophobic agenda. Muslim political forces that react in the violent way that we have seen actually reinforce the very Islamophobia against which they protest.

Salman Rushdie’s kind of work falls into a different category, of course. It cannot be dismissed as rubbish. He is a major contemporary writer. However, his Satanic Verses are very innocuous indeed compared to satires of Christianity, or even Judaism for that matter, which are freely available in the West.

Q: Since the Salman Rushdie affair there have been the Danish cartoons, Geert Wilders’ film, and now the film produced in the US. Every time we see wild massive reactions. How do you explain that?

GA: The fact is, very obviously, that certain political forces exploit such events to agitate for their cause, as Khomeini did in the case of the Rushdie affair. He never read Salman Rushdie’s book, in the same way as most demonstrators against the anti-Islam film have not seen it. It is always the same story: some political forces exploit such occasions by stirring up the raw feelings of politically illiterate people in order to push their own political agenda. Fundamentalist forces have always seized upon such provocations. This is how they build their influence.

Q: In Pakistan, a common idea peddled by the government, Islamists and mainstream media is to demand worldwide UN legislation banning blasphemy? What do you think of this demand?

GA: I am hundred percent against it. The notion of blasphemy is a medieval notion. Those who make such a demand want to bring us back to the Middle Ages. If you want to prohibit criticism of religion, you will have to prohibit it for all religions. To implement a ban on blasphemy one will have to proscribe a huge number of works of literature, art and philosophy accumulated over many centuries in all languages, including Arabic of course. Such works are presently banned in the Arab world, but this is a testimony to the lack of freedom of expression.

The freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression. As long as a society does not tolerate this freedom, it has not achieved freedom of expression. It is a duty of all people committed to democratic freedoms to raise their voices against barbaric reactions to lunatic provocations. Capitulation to religious demagogy will entail a huge cost at all levels. Once set in motion this process of curtailment of free speech will have no limit. Who will decide what is blasphemous and what is not?

Q: The demonstrators in Pakistan targeted symbols of wealth (banks, cars, ATM machines) or Western culture (cinemas, theatres). Some people view these violent actions in the Muslim world as part of a wider political conflict between the West and the Muslim world. What is your opinion?

GA: I disagree. Violence can be understandable under certain circumstances when people are demonstrating against social and economic assaults on their livelihood or in protest against actual slaughter, massacres, invasions, or occupations perpetrated by Western powers, or the Zionist occupation in Palestine. And yet, the fact is that many real massacres committed by Western powers or Zionists did not lead to any comparable reactions. The truth is that the violence on display is above all a political exploitation by fundamentalists of a provocation for utterly reactionary purposes.

Q: The left in most of the Muslim countries is a small force and is often caught in a strange situation during such crises. While the left, in Pakistan for instance, condemns racist provocations, it advocates curtailment of free speech with regard to religion. What do you think of this attitude?

GA: We are reaping today the result of the left’s failure over many decades to raise the basic secular demand of separation of religion from state. Secularism – including freedom of belief, religion, and irreligion – is an elementary condition of democracy. It should be, therefore, an elementary part of any democratic project, let alone a left project. But most of the left in my part of the world, the Arab region, has capitulated on this issue.

For instance, in Egypt, large sections of the left, including the radical left, have all but dropped the term secularism from their vocabulary. Ironically, when the ‘Islamist’ Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Egypt, he stated publicly that he stood for secularism, to the chagrin of the Muslim Brotherhood.

If the left wants to challenge the hegemony of Islamic forces and develop a counter-hegemonic movement in the political, social and cultural spheres, it must fight resolutely for secularism as well as against gender oppression – another fight from which many on the left also shy away in fear of ‘hurting the feelings’ of the believers. This is a self-defeating strategy.

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.


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.

Hanging the hashtag #Censorship #FOE #FOS #internetfreedom


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.

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




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


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