Freedom of the press in India ?

The article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression and the press. Yet, the authorities keep a close eye on what the journalists write, say or film. Be it for medias in vernacular languages, hindi or english. During the state of emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ( from 25 june 1975 to 21 march 1977), she didn’t hesitate to muzzle the press from the start. Nowadays, the main press publications ( Times of India, Indian express, The Hindu and Hindustan Times) are controlled by wealthy business families who may be tempted to use their newspapers to influence the government policies. While the editors in chief are theorically independent, it is a well known fact that these newspapers reflect ( at least partly) the concerns of their owners. The press barons are not only looking for power or personal gains. They launch aggressive campaigns to report abuses and financial or political scandals.

The freedom of expression is a right…with limitations. No problem as long as the journalists write, film,… about the picture postcard, tourism, culture, economic success and anything about the successes of India. Such subjects are welcome by the authorities. But as soon as they try to have informations about sensitive topics like the Kashmir conflict, corruption, human rights and the setbacks of the so-called “largest democracy in the world”, the problems start. Many journalists who had the courage to disclose embarrassing informations have been threatened or dismissed because of pressions exerted on their editorial board. Libel suits are another mean to filter informations. As for the foreign journalists, some are persona non grata in India.

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One Response to Freedom of the press in India ?

  1. anarchyindia says:

    The problem with the leaderships of this country (the lords and ladies of the Parliament, of the courts and the ones holding the twisting knives) has always been their eyesight. Twisted and myopic; reflecting the distorted image of the society, the world and terribly, also the future. They invariably miss the trees for the forest. Nothing new, one might content. This may very well be our grand old sordid tradition of foibles. The country of vermin fighting the war against the army of termites.

    For the longest time now, the contemporary drivers of this centuries old association of cultures (a nation, if you may want to call it so) have deemed it comfortable and even ‘natural’ to drive forward while looking at the side mirrors. The things left behind as always still overwhelms the present view. The ones that won’t let the burnt bridges be forgotten. The trail of blood follows the rear mirror. But in spite of their dedicated monitoring of the lost lanes, they invariable forget to read the lines printed on the mirror: Images that appear on the mirror are closer than you see. The skeletons of the lost lane invariably crashes, time and time again, into the slow march of a nation devoid of free will and the will to be free. As if the whole country, the whole idea of this nation is perceptually warped in a vortex of past horrors. Castes, cartoons and censorship. Can an individual breadth free without bearing the burdens of past segregating identities?

    Sixty four years into a self- regulating concoction of sorts and we still live in a world of terrible binaries. Bifurcated into shards of conflicting identities married (and marred) together spinning with an unstoppable centrifugal force.

    Bursting at its seems and looking for an outlet, who directs this mass of repeating ravens?

    For years now, the dilapidating political force and the thirds estate of the democracy, the Judiciary has been drawing the line. Lines between morality and immorality, between ethics and antics, between zebra crossings and jaywalking, between crime and cut back, between reservation and resentment, between thieves and public servants, between freedom and frustration.

    Very conveniently the ‘sutradhars’ of the modern tale of India have high jacked the most obnoxious weapon of determination: lawfulness.

    Freedom of Expression is a pink elephant in India. We may romanticize about it but no forest in this country dares to let one gaze on its lands. Instead there is the new unconstitutional “right to be offended”. The Freedom of Expression is suppressed for all reasons. The only freedom of expression is for the ones who want to leave behind a legacy of violence. Even if tactically the press is free it is obsessed with reporting the most inconsequential of news. All mirror each other. Sensationalism with no real courage, that is the main mantra of the media and of course the vote seeking politicians.

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