Free Speech Issues in India 2010: A monograph

IN Media Freedom | 21/02/2011
For a democracy, India's free speech record in 2010 was far from exemplary: attacks on the media, unwaranted charges of sedition, hate speech, culture wars and much else.
The Hoot~s FREE SPEECH HUB documented free speech issues through the year as well as the debates that took place around these.

Freedom of speech, in the media as well as in the arts, cannot be taken for granted. For a democracy, India's free speech record in 2010 was far from exemplary.  At the start of a new decade  civil society has to recognise this. Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are now frequently being contested by arms of the government, by insurgents, and by vigilante groups.

There are tracts of the country where journalists cannot go in to report because the security forces or the Maoists keep them out. So you don't know what is happening to the populations which live there. In some states like West Bengal there is an emerging political culture which drives out journalists from press conferences held by political parties. Why? Because individual journalists are increasingly seen as partisan and political party workers have become more intolerant.

If the leash was being shortened on news and the media in 2010, other spaces - cultural or cyber, were also under attack: and slowly, our right to choose the films we wish to watch, the books we can read or the websites we access is being taken from us. As is journalists’ freedom to report. So the media watch website felt the need to create a space that would be vigilant about freedoms that are constantly under assault.

The Free Speech Hub is a civil society initiative that set out in January 2010 to highlight issues of freedom of speech and expression and regulation of media. Through research and monitoring of the broad area of free expression through different media, by tracking data privacy issues and government policy and legislative debate, it seeks to create a climate of awareness about free speech issues in the country. Its ‘Free Speech Tracker’ – a calendar - tracked free speech related events through the year.

In this monograph we feature extracts from the debate which took place on the Hub in 2010.

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