Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hate speech

In the United States of America freedom of speech is scared. But even there 'hate speech' is suppressed in the interest of public order. The distinction is drawn between expression that is genuinely ones opinion and expression that has the tendency to incite violence. No civilized society can allow one to say things that has the tendency to create public disorder.
Varun Feroze Gandhi is considered now to be the poster boy for Hindutva outfits. He has usurped what was till yesterday the domain of Modis and Togadias. The polarization of the Indian society once again can be gauged from the television debate forums. This, like the 26/11, is a turning point in the political/social scenario of India- things will never be the same again. Political spokespersons are debating about the impact of the speech on the recent Lok Sabha elections. What is been left out is the bigger impact on the society at large. Feelings, that till today were kept to oneself, have been let loose in the public domain.
It is scary, to put it mildly. One may agree to the political ideology of an outfit but how can one agree to the content of the hate speech?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Matter of Justice

Comments on Shiney Ahuja's case is doing the rounds. Every person is giving his/her personal opinion on the case and in some ways commenting on Shiney. As usual in these kinds of cases Shiney's guilt is presumed. The media has in not so many words told the world that Shiney is guilty of transgression. He is already serving time.
Is it the job of the media to report, provide comment and pass judgments on pending cases? Where does one draw the line? In many cases celebrities just get away with murder unless there is relentless media focus. On the other hand, in the the defense of the celebrities, everyone should be treated equally. Why, when someone is well known, he/she gets extra importance and in a way stands trial twice- once in the court and more importantly much before that in the public forum. There is the issue of fair trial and presumption of innocence before the trial begins. If tomorrow Shiney is acquitted by the court, there will be an assumption of guilty anyways.
How do you resolve this dilemma without allowing the guilty among the high and mighty to get away with crime? If you have answers or views on this do comment.

Press On

Freedom of the Press happens to be my favourite subject. The experiences in college and beyond have taught me that there is nothing more important or valuable as a free press. People may have views about criticism but I feel that when we foreclose that option we also foreclose a free and dynamic society. It is through a process of healthy criticism and free exchange of views that a society can grow and resolve its problems.
When I was a student, a Professor who taught and wrote extensively on First Amendment Right (Freedom of the Press) once put into practice his passion about the issue. The context was the on-going debate about the need to put restrictions on The Simpsons show as it was potraying values considered to be out of sync with American values. Irrespective of his personal views on the subject in question, Prof. took it upon himself to join the symbolic protest against any ban or censorship of Simpsons. He, without exception, wore formals to class. One day he wore Bart Simpson t-shirt to work.
There are many such examples in our surroundings where a higher principle takes precedence over personal views.