The extremely popular government is scared of catching the viral fever and so attempts to put them to isolation.
Khwaish Gupta, Writer
Just imagine - your Instagram feed only filled with reverence for the saints that run the country and aartis and anthems singing their praise on Youtube. You would be informed in a click what good gods your political leaders and their capitalist friends are. It’ll be all rainbows (condition-only saffron coloured) and unicorns. Maybe a decade later, on Diwali, next to your Lakshmi and Ganpati will also sit an idol of Mr Modi. If this picture excites you to live for such times, I’d prefer you don’t continue reading this piece. However, if this disturbs you deeply, learn why this might happen.
On 16th September 2020, the Center submitted an affidavit to the apex court during the Sudarshan TV: UPSC Jihad row hinting to bring about digital censorship laws for web-based news outlets. The government feels that there are enough regulatory mechanisms in place for broadcast and print media and now the viral nature of information on digital platforms needs to be tamed.
The speculation of the censorship being problematic happens in the midst of a highly politicised pandemic where it has become increasingly evident that the government owns electronic media to a large extent, using it for spreading propaganda. In such times when fake news and hate speech plagued electronic news media, certain digital independent news outlets stood true to their journalistic commitments and continued functioning as the fourth pillar of democracy.
They acted as a watchdog, in its true sense, questioning the government and its other organs on the country’s fight against the pandemic, the economic affairs and the unequal treatment borne by the minorities. Had it not been for the almost free and accessible medium that the internet is, important happenings wouldn’t have reached us at all. Disruptive media outlets like The Print, The Wire, Scroll and Caravan among others have used their authentic craft of journalism to deliver righteously in such tumultuous times when reporting against the government is considered anti-national.
It scares me today, to even think of an India without these media outlets doing what they do best if the government were to censor their job.
It scares me today, to even think of an India without these media outlets doing what they do best if the government were to censor their job. It will not only be constitutionally inappropriate to infringe on one’s right to public property -- spectrum in case of the internet but also curtail one’s right to freedom of expression. Digital media does have significant power today due to an inestimable reach. There is almost no or very less set-up and maintenance cost to deliver digital news which makes it easier to steer clear of political and corporate ties which influence reporting in a big way.
The shift from traditional media to digital is quite apparent and irrepressible. It is a no man’s land and still everyone’s.
To repress the narratives at the digital front also seems like a visionary and progressive approach for the government as this is an uncharted territory where people will have to step in eventually. The shift from traditional media to digital is quite apparent and irrepressible. It is a no man’s land and still everyone’s.
In my opinion, if India is moving towards a capitalist economy and away from a welfare state, the government should also let the marketplace of ideas flourish. Let this uncensored market be a test of truth. If the government thinks that the truth must prevail, they might as well stay away from it.