Article 19(1): Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression allows citizens to analyse the government critically and to express their viewpoint on any platform. People can write whatever they feel like about any political personality anywhere. This is totally fine and greatly approved. However, the popular political opinions of the public are being manufactured. We are living in a digital world where social media websites have become an important site for major communal interactions. The have also become a big platform for the political parties to indulge in the political contestation using ethical and unethical instruments. Troll armies are fake accounts that will create this huge trend which a mob starts following. These accounts have been used in various election campaigns. Chomsky says that the mass media’s primary function is to mobilise public support for the special interests that dominate interests of a selected few. The decisions taken by the society are in the hands of a very concentrated agenda setting populace which decide what rest of the population must do. Freedom of Expression is exercised by the citizens by supporting political opinion. But with troll armies creating forced opinions, the opinion itself becomes manufactured. So is the public even truly exercising its Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression?
This short film portrays how a person is ripped off his freedom of speech by not only the government but also their partners, parents and family members. There is a rally organized in order to revolt against an incident in which a comedian has joked about the Prime Minister and he was arrested. The protagonist argues that it was just a joke, this is an issue of freedom of speech, and is angered by the fact that the voices are been suppressed. The idea of rally seems very frivolous to his partner and ridicules his option of going to a rally. She also calls people posting their opinions online as having verbal diarrhoea and supports the argument that they should keep their opinions to themselves. He also insists on wearing a mask in the rally which indicates the fear behind revealing their identity even during demanding their rights. This short film also shows the difference of opinions people have depending on the different religion. The difference in freedom of speech if you are a muslim or Hindu. In the end he doesn’t end up going to the rally because the government had taken measures of physical violence to stop the rally. Even though he had the drive to achieve something he was ridiculed when he went back to his family and was called as “bloody teenage angst”. This makes us wonder if we even have a freedom of speech in our own home.
We need to relook at the concept of freedom of speech in order to discuss the case of Padmaavat. A group of activist and protestors take on the street and threaten law and order which forces our courts to impose ban on a movie which had no connections with the reasons for protest. First thing that Karni Sena evoked is the idea of freedom to speech. We need to question ourselves, how can a group of activist protesting without proper laws have the ability to challenge one of the biggest fundamental rights given by our constitution. It was the high to for Supreme Court to make people believe that we follow the ideas of our constitution and challenges like these cannot tackle the fundamentals of our government. Finally the decision was taken to remove the ban on the movie in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. Freedom of speech and expression is the right of every filmmaker and producer until the message he delivers is clear in the eyes of the courts.
The above artifact is a mail sent to us by the IPM Media Committee towards the end of our first year. The issue was that one of the students of our batch posted a FaceBook memory and juxtaposed his current feelings about the programme with that of his feelings at the start. Through this artifact we intend to show how our freedom of speech is continuously restricted by the higher authorities. If we deviate, the instance is made an example of and used to condition other students to act like "College going students". While the institute's reputation should remain sacrosanct, but the method of doing so shouldn't be silencing opposing voices. Rather a potential IPM student should have complete information about the institute (Favorable or otherwise). It is this discourse which the freedom of speech intends to protect, but we have been institutionalized to these continual restrictions so as to not bat an eye.
Point (2) clearly states that the state has the power to “reasonably restrict” the freedom of speech. This limitation is not necessarily during the period of emergency, it can be imposed as and when the state deems it important and reasonable. Laws can be made which would restrict our freedom of speech, debates about decriminalizing defamation has been going on for a long time, and the Judiciary refuses to decriminalize it. The recent “Sorry Saga” of Mr Kejriwal where he had to retract his allegations against many politicians and businessmen, draws the line to the right as and when it wrongfully affects the people / community about whom the statements are made. The artifact has been accessed from the following site - https://www.india.gov.in/sites/upload_files/npi/files/coi_part_full.pdf
India doesn’t seem to a place for all the artists, cinematographers, etc to express their views in their own ways. There were several instances where huge number of films were banned due to censorship, expressions or speech against various beliefs. This is about the lack of tolerance to different beliefs. Most of the times all the bans are caused not mainly because of the fundamental right of the constitution, but based on public’s beliefs, cultures, etc. There was an all girls group rock band of Kashmir which performed only for once and received numerous criticisms on facebook, and warning from the top muslim cleric. They just banned them from their expressions saying it is ‘Un-Islamic’ and questioning ‘Is it right for them to perform in a muslim dominated state.?. This made them quit from their live performance and also from any further performances. Aren’t these teens privileged with these rights? Yes, they do. But, it isn’t the law that takes decisions but the society around us. Not only this, there were several such protests such as removal of an art exhibition in Delhi due to the obscene pictures of hindu advaitas which was against the culture.
Press censorship and the twenty one months of emergency are synonymous in the minds of many Indians. Today, very little is remembered of the democracy’s watchdog’s lion-hearted effort at resisting the censorship. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imprisoned the editors of many newspapers and periodicals. Nothing captured the core of the Emergency better -“A harsh critique of the government will earn you a harsh prison sentence.” The government religiously scanned newspapers for objectionable or seditious content and then imprisoned those who were associated with the generation and publication of that content. Journalists and newspapers then provided us with some of the best examples of exploiting loopholes and evading surveillance. The artefact in the left appeared in the obituaries section of the Times of India. At first glance, it appears to be the obituary of a non-descript gentleman by the name of O’cracy who is mourned by his family. A closer look reveals the genius of this wittily worded obituary. This jocular condemnation showed that even in the most strictly-surveilled regimes, white spaces (spaces that have no/vague rules) exist. The artefact on the right makes the most powerful use of the literal white space on a newspaper. By printing a blank front page, The Indian Express steered clear of every tactic of intimidation the government placed before it. It conveyed that the press’ silence could be as uncompromising and effective as editorials that would unsparingly critique the regime.
The press can resist, but only for so long. The government’s arbitrariness have taken a toll. India’s rankings in the Freedom of Press Index have been dropping. The largest democracy is ranked 131 st out of the 175 countries surveyed. The Press Freedom Index intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom. This can be attributed to the corporate and political ownership of the major Indian media houses. Coupled with are the ramifications of the 1956 Cabinet decision that banned the entry of foreign media houses in India. This was partially lifted in 2005 and 2011 when FDIs in media houses were allowed to go up to 26% and %2% respectively. But why is this important? As long as there are a multitude of channels that contest the domination of the media scene by the state controlled broadcasting channel, we should assume that the media is representative of our democracy. Right? Not really. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave tells us why? The “news” that is broadcasted are analogous to the shadows that were cast on the cave walls. We do not see the “news”, we see the shadow of the news that is presented to us. This applies especially in cases of foreign policies or international news. Our understanding of the world and its matters is not only incomplete but also skewed. https://www.newslaundry.com/2014/02/05/who-owns- your-media- 4