Sunday, March 8, 2015

My India

India is a country in transition and the society is hopelessly divided into modern, semi-modern, traditional and outright primitive. What is right for the traditional part of the society looks outdated and often embarrassing for the modern part. As modern India grows and starts occupying a bigger segment of the social space there is bound to be friction with the past. The media is seen as progressive and liberal in its outlook and therefore sides with the modern society. Most of the struggle between the different segments of the society is fought in the media spaces. Television news channels provide a glimpse into the many debates and discussions this relatively new democracy undergoes on a daily basis.
The more or less universal condemnation of the censorship moves by the government in the Wendy Doniger book issue, the CBFC chairman appointment and the Nirbhaya documentary case puts media among the progressive forces in the country that are trying to stem the slide into a closed society. China is an example of the effect censorship by State has on the society as a whole. Only the officially approved creative works see the light of day- it can be constricting and controlling the creative outputs. We in India have had a relatively free run since independence. But in recent years the sword of official censorship is increasingly being wielded to support a single idea of India. Gone are the days of celebrating the plurality and the vibrancy that goes with it. Now we are constantly reminded of the need to adjust to the official line, especially on culture.
Where are we headed? Whose idea of India should we accept and follow? What about fundamental rights of the citizens of India and individual freedom? Will they just be confined to history and the constitution of India? Scary thoughts about the future.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

India's daughter

A documentary is a glimpse of life. A film captures a slice of reality. The debate today is- whether the documentary made for BBC 'India's Daughter' should be banned? The argument for the ban as articulated by the government is that this documentary portrays India wrongly to the world at large. The government appropriates to itself the right to decide how India and its various components will then be represented through the various mediums of expression.
Every individual, through expression, constantly is creating and recreating India for us and the world. Curbing this right through censorship will bring down the diversity that is India. There is no one India- a homogenous cultural juggernaut. The one bright spot on the horizon is the multitude of cultures and practices that abound this country. Any attempt to meddle or control this will dilute the essence of India.
Just like the good and progressive side of India needs to be shown, the ugly and regressive also should find its place. One cannot artificially paint India as the land of milk and honey. We need to create one and the beginning can be made by putting a mirror to the society. Change and progress will not happen if embarrassing issues are swept under the carpet. They have to be dealt with if we want to call ourself a healthy democracy.

Charlie's world

The French cherish their freedom. When a leftist leaning magazine was attacked for publishing the controversial cartoons, the French government put its full weight behind the magazine. The message was very simple- we may not agree with your views but we will defend your right to have it. The French paid a heavy price for their policy on freedom but doing so would have jeopardized the very ideals of the French Republic.
The multi-cultural society exerts its own pressures on the various organs of the State. The legislature is constantly influenced to bring in laws to protect the interests of the minorities and thereby bring about their integration into the larger society. The judiciary is also under pressure to review and interpret the laws in tune with the changing needs of the society. And finally, the executive performs the task of delivering the policies to the people.
Freedom is non-negotiable. Any dilution of this freedom is the beginning of a restricted society. A society that is restricted will find alternative and sometimes violent ways of expressing itself. Freedom is a safety value-  it allows the frustration and anger to be channeled into various modes of expressions- films, literature, theatre, arts and even political action. One thing Charlie Hebdo episode has driven home to us Indians is the fact that basic freedom is worth defending.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Arnab Goswami

Arnab came, spoke and enthralled the audience at Christ University. Among other things Arnab replied to a question on 'Trial by Media'. This is rather contentious and there is a divided reaction to this among the media professionals. What is trial by media? It refers to the usurping of the powers of the judiciary by the press to do a parallel trial and reach a conclusion about the guilt or otherwise of the accused.
Most television channels have been conducting trial by media. In some instances, the travesty of justice is sought to be corrected by media campaign in high profile cases. Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Matoo cases are just two examples where media took upon itself to bring the culprits to book and in the process aid justice. In some of the other cases; Shiney Ahuja in particular, the media conducted trial before the judicial process took off and convicted the accused. Many felt that Shiney didn't get a free and fair trial due to the media intervention.
Arnab had an interesting take on this issue- as long as the case has not taken off formally in a court of law the media can report, analyse and pass judgements on the case. This stand may not be universal nor acceptable to all. It also may not conform to the legal provisions governing contempt of court law. Freedom of the press and the right of a man/woman charged with a crime to a free and fair trial are at loggerheads here. Media has a responsibility to see that justice is done as many cases involving powerful people needs monitoring as there is scope for manipulation. At the same time this cannot be an excuse to deny the accused a chance at proving his innocence.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cartoon Capers

Cartoons give a funny yet striking view of life around us. Humour is an important component of existence. It is our ability to laugh at ourselves that defines who we are. Right from independence we have had graphic communicators in the form of Vijayan. Keshav, Laxman, Abu and others who painted our society in satire and parodied the wrongs. One cannot imagine a newspaper without its front page political cartoon. It adds a different dimension to the news (facts) and views (opinions).
Many cartoonists have been in trouble in the past. But there haven't been any major source of apprehension about this freedom to express. Today, things have taken on ugly turn. Cartoonists, one after another are facing arrests. They have been charged with serious crimes for using the medium to make important political statements. The latest causality is Aseem Trivedi, who caricatured the corruption that is eating into the very entails our system. He was charged with sedition for denigrating the national symbols. People who have looted the country are going scot-free and those protesting against that are being jailed.
Freedom is always fragile. Interested groups are willing to go to any lengths to stop being exposed. Freedom of expression is sacred, not the symbols we are told to revere. It is extremely heartening to see so many reasonable people protesting Aseem's arrest. If we give up our right to defend our rights, we may as well lose them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

critical issues

this semester very few students took part in the online discussion. maybe media laws as a subject is not very interesting. the next semester the same students will have critical media issues. it is a continuation of the dilemma that media practitioners find themselves in and the possible way out of the situations. the topics that will be discussed in class as part of this paper will be decided once the semester starts.
the possible topics for discussion could be- paid news- is there a way out, handling communally sensitive issues- the Ayodhya decision, interpretation of news- what happens to objectivity, fourth estate question- taking on the government of the day, public figures having no private lives and intensive public relations effecting news credibility.
i would love to hear from the class if there are any other topical issues or the ones listed need a different direction. online is an extension of the class and very important to cut down on the waste and repetition in classroom.
go ahead and reply.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

why do we need laws?

every day when i pass through the two-wheeler parking lot i see the security personnel guiding the students to park their vehicles in an organized manner. just imagine if even one parks the bike in a crooked manner, it will lead to hardships for many. 

this is precisely the case with laws. we would have loved to park where we liked and hate someone telling us where to park. but that is not in the interest of all. so, laws are necessary to bring about some order in society. there is a cost involved in everything. when we are mandated to follow the laws it means giving up some aspects of our personal freedom. but the benefits to the society as a whole are many and that is the reason why we all crib about too many laws but can't imagine a society without them. 

please feel free to comment.

naresh rao