Scented Handwash: BJP supporters struggle for Freedom of Speech #FOE


Vidyut, Aug 25,2012

I have lampooned our government often over censorship and it is a Congress Government [each word is one among dozens of links on this blog criticizing our government on regimenting free speech]. This is because it is the UPA government in power. The BJP aint smelling sweet on this though I made the mistake of ignoring them.

Today, the BJP supporters online are vocal in criticizing government censorship and being condescending with anyone not supporting the shining ideal – “absolute” freedom of speech, with Twitter flooded with criticism of the Congress for using censorship for political purposes. While this cannot be disputed – our government is indeed trying to regiment dissent into compliance in various ways – both online and offline, the high moral ground currently taken by the BJP, in my view is little more than a farce when the only time it is heard is when accounts affiliated with their interests are blocked. This, in my view is not a fight for right to freedom of speech and it is pressure to reverse blocks to protect their own interests.

The washing hands off any responsibility for the condition of our freedoms of speech in my view is rubbish. BJP has played a role in censoring Speech, which it conveniently ignores now, when it wishes free speech for its own.

The first major instance of internet censorship in India was when the website Dawn.com was blocked in 1999 during the Kargil War. Rediff had posted a workaround. The IT Act didn’t exist then, but here is how it was done anyway.

VSNL Acting Chairman and Managing Director Amitabh Kumar toldRediff ”Yes. We have blocked the site. But it is under instruction from higher authorities.” When asked about the legality of the order, Kumar said “We have done it under the authority given to us by the Indian Telegraph Act.”

The next year itself, the IT Act passed. I was living in Manali when the IT Act of 2000 was passed and a mighty puzzled dehati when all of a sudden all the cyber cafes started warning of watching pornographic or “obscene” content on their premises. It was the starting point of the government moralizing use of the internet. The 67th point in the Information Technology Act described offenses:

67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Their hounding of Tehelka for their Operation Westend expose is probably on par with the Wikileaks hounding by US – for exposing grave wrongs in defense forces too. Accusations of “ISI hand”, “fabricated videos”, etc – that BJP supporters jeer at today coming from Congress politicians have been a part of that persecution. Today their supporters are furious about blocks on Twitter profiles that still leave them with the ability to get their word out and have no impact on their journalism.

 

Read more here http://aamjanata.com/scented-handwash-bjp-supporters-struggle-for-freedom-of-speech

Sedition, Free Speech and Koodankulam: Video interviews


On 6 April, 2012, Poovulagin Nanbargal and Campaign for Justice and Peace-TN organised a panel discussion titled
“The Use and Abuse of Sedition and Other Laws to Stifle Democratic Dissent“Here’re short interviews with the panelists. The film was shot and edited by Siddharth Muraleedharan, an young activist from Chennai.

1. Interview with Dr. Usha Ramanathan, Legal Scholar

2. Interview with Adv. R. Vaigai, Madras High Court

3. Interview with Adv. M. Vetriselvan, Madras High Court (Speaking on Koodankulam — Tamil).

End Death Calls for Saudi Poet and Blogger


 By- Paul  Mutter -The National reports that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has “issued a fatwa against Twitter, demanding that ‘real Muslims’ avoid it, calling it a ‘platform for trading accusations and for promoting lies’.”

The pretext for this condemnation of social media is the case of the Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari, who was extradited from Malaysia to the Kingdom after tweeting about the Prophet Muhammad in a manner that the religious authorities deemed blasphemous. If the Saudis wish to make an example, he will be facing blasphemy charges, and possibly death, rather than a lesser (though still absurd) sentencing that would end in him paying a fine. There’s also talk of taking action against anyone who retweeted his messages.

But considering that thousands of Twitter users called attention to Kashgari’s tweets, literally demanding his head, it’s ironic that the Grand Mufti says Muslims should stay off Twitter, since clearly, many salafis are using, and policing it.

And, as The National notes, it’s even more ironic that the Grand Mufti’s issuing a ban since Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the King’s nephew and reputedly the richest man in Saudi Arabia, purchased 3.6% of Twitter’s stock for US$300 million this past December.

The fact that the Grand Mufti wants Twitter gone while a prince wants to buy its shares up nicely illustrates the uneasy dual monarchy that has defined clerical-royal relationship since the 18th century. The monarchy set up in 1923 is actually a dual monarchy because the royal family must maintain the approval of the Wahhabi ulema to rule, and there are those who question this “right” – one of the first crises of the Saudi state occured when the monarchy and ulema, fearing the Ikhwan tribal militias who had won control of the Hejaz for them, turned on the militiamen. The House of Saud procured the British machine guns, the clergy produced a justificatory edict for the crackdown.

As Toby C. Jones notes, “the ulema’s support for the regime is not unconditional. They remain controversial, provocative and confrontational.” Oil wealth and investment portfolios allow Saudi princes to study at Sandhurst and hobnob with French socialites, but they also subsidize the religious-dominated educational system and the social welfare net, which the Saudis have been working to expand in the wake of the Arab Spring, that help hold society together on the al-Sauds’ behalf. “The rebel in you” Kashgari refers to with respect to the Prophet Muhammad is precisely the sort of Islamic value that the Saudi status quo cannot handle — hence the sharp responses from the government against anyone urging reform, including Salafis and secularists. The Sahwas — former Islamist radicals who have become “partners” of the establishment — are the closest thing to a political opposition Saudi Arabia has, their presence is limited by the government and they must be careful not to push too far in the Islamist direction that Osama bin Laden fell in with. One promiment Sahwa spiritual leader has argued in the past that “sovereignty belongs to God alone,” which is indeed “a challenge both to the idea that Saudi citizens should enjoy more participation in governance as well as to the royal family itself.”

Hamza Kashgari’s case is one of free speech. The religious establishment, wanting to remain the arbiter of social norms in the Kingdom and hold onto the power it has accrued, is hoping to denigrate a medium that they fear because of its prominent — though exaggerated — role in the “Arab Spring.” They can’t reconcile themselves to globe-spanning electronic mediums that might lead their congregations to start thinking thought crimes. A chilling message has been sent already through the extradition from Malaysia; it will depend on the royal family if the intended message stops with a fine, or with Kashgari’s execution.

PL SIGN ONLINE PETITION AND SHARE WIDELY

 

Ethical hacker tells how to beat censorship


 

Ankit Farida author of the book 'How to unlock everything on the internet" released the book ,in Hyderabad on Tuesday. - Photo G. Krishnaswamy.

 

Ask Mr Ankit Fadia, the 26-year-old ethical hacker, to sign his book for you, he would scribble ‘Happy Hacking’ before signing it. For him, hacking is ethical and a tool to settle scores if someone restricts your freedom. He feels that it is like arming the disarmed.

If Government or any private or public agency tries to restrict Internet access, Mr Ankit says, “you need not lose heart. You need not keep mum and suffer silently.” It is an antidote for censorship, which he feels, not fair.

“You can always press ‘undo’ button in such cases and enjoy surfing whatever way you and get connected with the world,” Mr Ankit, who wrote his book when he was 14, said.

He is part of E-Secure, a security consultancy firm that hacks into companies’ networks (after it is engaged for the job) to highlight the chinks in the armour. The firm has advised 50 companies so far.

In Hyderabad on Tuesday to promote his latest book How to unblock everything on the Internet, there is nothing on the Internet that can be blocked. The book, his 15th one till date, contains information on how to unblock the blocked sites.

Censorship

Referring to recent moves by the Government to force social networking sites to pre-screen the content before it gets published, he said cyber laws would do to tackle unlawful activities.

“Putting restrictions on sensitive information is okay. I am against all other restrictions. You can always pull up the wrong guy and put him to task,” he said.

Ethical hacking could be a good career option.

“There are good guys and bad boys out there. Knowledge is like a knife, it all depends on how you use it,” he said.

 

Source- Hindu Businessline , Jan 31, 2012

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