Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our right to write

The following article was written for a newspaper - Postnoon. Pasting it below :) 

Let's assume for a moment that Kapil Sibal's idea will get converted into law. The law says social websites to block material that is deemed “threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, objectionable, defamatory, … or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.” Here's the first basic question - who will decide whether something is abusive, objectionable blah blah? 

Let's further assume that the genius in Mr. Kapil Sibal came up with a satisfactory answer to our first question. The next question is this - who is next? By the same logic, will factionist and mafia movies be banned? Shouldn't those soap operas on TV be banned for being abusive etc? Better yet, what about the "debates" on news channels which qualify for the adjectives above?

However these questions arising from mere assumptions are not the reason why Kapil Sibal's idea is a joke. As lofty as it may sound, it is a joke because it steals from you, one of your basic freedoms - the freedom of expression. The government wants to first read what you wish to express, and then decide if it is appropriate or not for your neighbour or the citizen of Uzbekistan to read it.  It actually doesn't matter that social websites do provide for a "report spam" or "block" button. It also doesn't matter that some websites actually remove "objectionable" content after getting complaints. It also doesn't matter that it is practically impossible to pre-screen everything that gets posted. 

What has logic got to do with anything as long as the government is unable to comprehend that ordinary citizens like you and me found a platform to criticize and have the gall to do so openly without any fear? And this is no exaggeration because a Google Transparency report says that the government wanted it to remove 255 items citing "government criticism" as the reason. Such actions are as despicable as banning books and movies merely because they might hurt a few.  It is also a sad reflection of an inefficient system when a minister who is entrusted with the responsibility of reforming  and running our education system gets busy with stealing our rights. Even worse if he is doing this to deflect attention from more pressing issues. 

As HRD minister, Kapil Sibal said - No more X board exams! Students are still writing those exams. As Telecom Minister, he said there is "zero loss" in the 2G scam. We know how big a lie that is. Here's hoping that his third attempt at his "15 minute fame" also meets its natural death! After all, it's about our right to write, right? :) 


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