Monday, March 10, 2008

Open Mike 6: Free Press in India (links)

We'll be continuing our Racist India discussion from last week, since we came no where close to finishing anything. However, since at the end of the discussion (and as it happens, in many discussions), we were discussing freedom of press, I've titled the topic as Free Press in India.

Rajaram Mohan Roy, back in 1823, explained the importance of freedom of the press with extreme clarity, while protesting the British ruling to clamp down on local publications:
“….. a free press has never yet caused a revolution in any part of the world …….. whereas, where no freedom of the press existed and grievances consequently remained unrepresented, innumerable revolutions have taken place in all parts of the globe.”

“……..ever since the art of printing has become generally known among the Natives of Calcutta numerous Publications have been circulated in the Bengalee Language which by introducing free discussion among the Natives and inducing them to reflect and inquire after knowledge, have already served greatly to improve their minds and ameliorate their condition”.

Freedom of Press is supposed to be sine qua non for a democratic society. The question is how true is that in actuality? Adding a few links here related to freedom of press. Please add more.

[1] The Hindu, one of the few family owned papers still remaining so in India, published this article Kudos to Tata Motors in October 2004, blasting Mahindra & Mahindra. After the furore raised by the article, N Ram, the editor-in-chief, wrote an apology. Now, both the article and the apology are on the website and if you read the article, there is no link whatsoever to the apology.

[2] Krishnaprasad, a journalist, blogs on how the New Indian Express does not need old hands. Particularly interesting in this link is a scathing open letter from a former IE editor P. Venugopal to the editor-in-chief of the IE group Aditya Sinha.

[3] This is from Wikipedia:

The Indian Constitution, while not mentioning the word "press", provides for "the right to freedom of speech and expression" (Article 19(1) a). However this right is subject to restrictions under subclause (2), whereby this freedom can be restricted for reasons of "sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, preserving decency, preserving morality, in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offence". Laws such as the Official Secrets Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act [2] (PoTA) have been used to limit press freedom. Under PoTA, person could be detained for up to six months for being in contact with a terrorist or terrorist group. PoTA was repealed in 2006, but the Official Secrets Act 1923 continues.

For the first half-century of independence, media control by the state was the major constraint on press freedom. Indira Gandhi famously stated in 1975 that All India Radio is "a Government organ, it is going to remain a Government organ..." [3] With the liberalization starting in the 1990s, private control of media has burgeoned, leading to increasing independence and greater scrutiny of government. Organizations like Tehelka and NDTV have been particularly influential, e.g. in bringing about the resignation of powerful Haryana minister Venod Sharma.

[4] A TheHindu report on a BBC finding that Indians prefer "peace and stability" over "free press".

[5] An interesting article titled One Way Street by Arvind Lavakare in Rediff.

[6] An explanation of Freedom of Press, who threatens it, what are the arguments, etc. in the context of India, from People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

[7] Article on Democracy and Freedom of Press in India from Project Monitor.

[8] Links from India Together:
(a) Media barons and press freedoms -- How relevant is the argument of a threat to freedom of the press in cases where the financial interests of a media baron could ostensibly conflict with that of the public? The question resurfaced recently in Andhra Pradesh over the Eenadu-Margadarsi controversy, writes B P Sanjay.

(b) Plight of the vulnerable -- Legislatures around the country are invoking privilege on all sorts of issues, even as the political parties condemn each other's actions to limit press freedom. Sevanti Ninan reports.

(c) An Interview on the Indian Press with Veerendrakumar -- M P Veerendrakumar is a staunch opponent of FDI. He predicts that the new deals signed in the Indian media will hit small and medium newspapers and open the floodgates to foreign control.

(d) Articles on the role of the press, and trends in media -- there are many articles of interest in this link.

Moving the link from Murali's comment into the post itself:

[9] Press Freedom Index: India's Rank
I guess it depends on how press freedom is defined: is it how much is available, or how much is availed of? India is ranked 120th in the world in press freedom in 2007 (down from rank 105 in 2006), so we know what the current trend is. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24025

1 comment:

Murali said...

[9] Press Freedom Index: India's Rank
I guess it depends on how press freedom is defined: is it how much is available, or how much is availed of?

How much press freedom is available?
India is ranked 120th in the world in press freedom in 2007 (down from rank 105 in 2006), so we know what the current trend is.
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24025

How much press freedom is availed of?
From the link Vinod sent about the Indian Express sacking, to me this is a very powerful statement of the state of affairs related to press freedom:

"Media watchers say they are not surprised that both the apologies have gone out to automotive companies, which are big advertisers on the pages of The Hindu and many of which are located in Tamil Nadu....At least with The Times of India, you get what you see. The paper makes no bones about protecting the advertiser's interest."

Censorship in India is imposed both externally (by Govt) and internally (self-censorship) and there just seems to be a depressingly high level of both.