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Last Updated: December 8, 2011  566 views

Threats to Freedom of Speech in India

in: Politics

freedom of speechThe entire nation is criticizing the Government for trying to control the flow of information in world’s biggest democracy. For a nation that has close to 120 million users, of which 43 million users are on Facebook, 3.6 million on Google plus and 3.5 million on Twitter, the move to screen user content is complete nonsense. Failing in performance and good governance, the Indian government is trying to gag the voices of discontent and dissent. This is the third time in the history of post-Independence India, the Indian National Congress has attempted to seize the freedom of speech.

1. Emergency in 1974 :: The Indian Emergency of 25 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 was a 21-month period, when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, upon advice by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a state of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, effectively bestowing on her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties. It is one of the most controversial times in the history of independent India. The period of emergency was big nightmare for Indian democracy. Thousands of leaders, anti-government journalists were detained and tortured in lock ups without any charges. Indira Gandhi freely used Doordarshan and All India Radio for her propaganda. Forced sterilization of men and women happened under the family planning initiative. Constitution of India was modified illegally.

2. Anti-Defamation Bill in 1988 :: With the help of his unprecedented majority, Rajiv Gandhi tried to get his Anti-Defamation Bill passed in parliament in the summer of 1988. The main aim of this bill was to demoralize the journalists who according to the Government wrote defamatory articles. The bill placed the entire burden of proof on the accused in defamation suits. If a politician or bureaucrat disliked what was written in a newspaper, he could use poorly defined terms (which were included in the bill) like “grossly indecent,” “scurrilous,” or “intended for blackmail” to cook up charges against the journalist. The bill also provided for summary trials and prescribed a minimum period of imprisonment for the journalists. This bill was strongly criticized by the Indian journalists and finally after a month-long struggle, which included a three-mile protest march, the anti-defamation bill was withdrawn.

3. Asking Google, Facebook to Screen User Content :: IT minister Kapil Sibal asked Internet companies and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google to prescreen user content from India and to remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online.

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    UPA-2 is in the news headlines for every possible wrong doing. I wonder who is advising the ministers to take these steps. Can’t they find out the sentiment and response of people. UPA-2 is over confident of its vote bank policy. Time will come soon to teach them a lesson.

    Pradeep Kar on December 9th, 2011