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Dear Friends,

We are living in times where groups which win the battle of media often succeed in serving their purposes/propaganda. Our founders had expected that media shall stand as a fourth pillar of Democracy to make it vibrant. Media shall provide power to the people and make them believe in Democratic principles. Reality however did not encompass the expected. This fourth pillar of Democracy, instead of standing up with people as a fourth underpin, as a fourth guard is apparently dominating even the other three pillars. Instead of strengthening the people, it is often making them weaker, helpless and undermining the essence of Democracy. Media, therefore cannot be ignored now. It is an inescapable fact of life. Ravish Kumar of NDTV India says, "Sanchar madhyam bimar ho gaya hai, aur wah janta ko bhi bimar kar raha hai".

Architect of Indian constitution, Dr. Ambedkar's below thoughts are relevant and apt here. He says, "Journalism in India was once a profession. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the manufacture of soap. It does not regard itself as the responsible adviser of the public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India its first or foremost duty. To accept a hero and worship him has become its principal duty. Under it, news gives place to sensation, reasoned opinion to unreasoning passion, appeal to the minds of responsible people to appeal to the emotions of the irresponsible. Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become so blind that as we see it in India today. There are, I am glad to say, honourable exceptions. But they are too few and their voice is never heard".

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We, a group of young Indians in Mumbai began our journey with the Initiative of 'New India Debate society' in 2014 with the below idea in mind:

New India debate society has been making an attempt to interpret and comprehend Ambedkar in a holistic manner trying to locate the missing thread of 'his nationalism'. This we do and shall continue to do so in a strict academic discipline and hence the initiative has been considered only as an academic pursuit with no ulterior motives of any social or political action.

Though, we were always of a mind that we will welcome any action springing out as a result of this exercise which would give India a push towards its ultimate destiny – a destiny common for all the elements of the national life.

In line with the said thoughts, we lately came up with the idea of IFIL - INDIAN FIRST INDIAN LAST.

ABOUT IFIL:

IFIL - (which may also be read as I-Feel) is an initiative which envisages to generate and provoke a kind of Public conscience among Indians which rises above the closets of Caste, Creed, Religion, Language, Region, even Nationalism and creates a mindset to fight against any form of Injustice.

Meaning of I-FEEL(IFIL) is that 'I am Sensitive'. I feel the joy and pain of each Indian and I pledge to stand-up for the people in need with full sincerity.

IFIL also means 'I-FILL', I shall determine myself to fill the expected democratic and progressive leadership which at present, is regretfully lacking in Indian society.

IFIL initiative shall time and again continue to put forth various activities, programmes, demonstrations, symposiums, events workshops, lectures et al.

We intend to launch the IFIL initiative with one such activity. We have organised a demonstration 'In solidarity with the emerging democratic, progressive voices in Indian media' on Monday, 14th March 2016 at Azad Maidan, Mumbai between ⏰3:00 p.m to 6:00 p.m. ⏰

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Sindhu Sooryakumar, chief coordinating editor of Asianet News TV, threatened, abused after moderating debate on Mahishasur Jayanti

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Sansad Marg on 14 April 2015: Shannon, a young student of journalism, came running towards me. I thought she was approaching me for a selfie, but she wanted to show me a selfie of my profession. She asked a question that had troubled her all morning. ‘Why isn’t Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar on television screens and in the newspapers?’ The media routinely broadcast images of festivals and anniversaries, but when it comes to Babasaheb there is a blackout. Shannon’s question actually hints at a larger concern from which we have insulated ourselves. Though Shannon was smiling, she was also angry. She kept stating, ‘There is such a massive crowd on Sansad Marg, but absolutely no coverage of the event. Even when there are only a few people protesting at Jantar Mantar, the media is there to cover of the issue.’ I could have answered her, but my response would have sounded (and rightly so) hollows  - Ravish Kumar
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" Bheedtantra se Jung mein, hum hai tere sang mein - IFIL"
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" Loktantra ki baat mein, hum khade tere saath mein - IFIL "

This is to express our solidarity and support to some exemplary voices we heard and observed during the tragic Rohith Vemula or JNU episode. These voices (like Ravish Kumar of NDTV India, Nikhil Wagle of Maharashtra One TV, Sindhu Suryakumar of Asianet etc) went against the flow of otherwise Profit-making, Capitalist, Brahminical & populist image of Indian media. Amidst the noise of 'deshdrohi, deshdrohi', these mediapersons gave a voice to the oppressed in unprejudiced manner and discharged their duty of digging out the truth behind the stories. For such courageous journalism (fourth pillar of democracy) and their democratic spirit, they certainly deserve a word of recognition from the responsible citizenry.

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A day comes when you have to take call of your conscience. When principles are more imp than small benefits of life, u become a free bird! - Nikhil Wagle

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Therefore, do join us at Azad Maidan on Monday 14th March 2016 between 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to be a part of this solidarity demonstration and help us make it a big success.

P.S: The demonstration is not in support of some specific people in media but with all those sincere democratic voices in Electronic, Print or even Social media.

Do contact, Sumedh , Pratik, Kiran, Pathak, Vivek, Anita, Mrs. Geeta, Chetan, Chandrashekhar, Prasad,  and Team IFIL (I-feel) INDIAN FIRST INDIAN LAST  to join the demonstration mail: pratikse_2007@rediffmail.com; .

You can also register through the below Facebook event link.

Demonstration in Solidarity with the emerging Democratic, Progressive voices in Indian media'

1

Last night, it emerged that after several shows that may have showed content embarrassing to the BJP, NDTV had gone off air in many places. Several "insider accounts" seem to allude to a picture of NDTV being perceived as showing footage embarrassing to the BJP (watch after 30 minutes).

NDTV coverage of Modi speech different from BJP official feed
NDTV coverage of Modi speech different from BJP official feed

The indication is that cable operators have been asked to block NDTV till the 7th of February - the day when Delhi Assembly Elections happen.

While this information cannot be confirmed, multiple reports of NDTV going off-air have been shared on social media, and a post compiling them was put up on this blog and is being regularly updated.

Another viewer has pointed to a link on the Times Now website where the video of the confrontation between AAP and AVAM last night during Arnab Goswami's News Hour that was extremely embarrassing to AVAM and BJP appears to have been removed.

Yesterday, All India Bakchod took down the videos of their Roast. For those who don't know, a roast is a comedy format based on humorous insults. It is intentionally offensive and insulting and all the participants participate knowing this, and the audience participates expecting this. In other words, consensual. In an ideal world, this should not have required any more attention than the kids under the window going "behen ke *****" as they play cricket. Profanity is common on our streets. It appears to be the idea of being open about it offended people who threatened to file cases. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena threatened to block films of actors participating in the roast - surely a matter of criminal intimidation, given that they have no constitutional authority to do any such thing. In the end, the roast was taken down. The government will now be probing All India Bakchod. Almost seems like the roast continues. AIB is so unsexy that they had to do a roast before anyone would probe them.

On a more serious note, Shireen Dalvi, the editor of Avadhnama's Mumbai edition is being hounded by Muslim organizations with multiple FIRs filed against her. She has been forced to wear the burkha for the first time in her life to protect her identity and has not been able to return to her home for weeks for fear of retaliation for her "crime" of publishing a Charlie Hebdo cartoon on the newspaper. And before we scream and faint about obscenity and racism, it was a cartoon most law abiding Muslims would unhesitatingly appreciate. It showed Prophet Mohammed holding a sign saying "Je Suis Charlie" in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack. In effect, the cartoon said that the massacre was by criminals and what the Prophet Mohammed stood for. Larger Muslim organizations in Mumbai had no problem with this. Stray organizations persecuting her found no resistance from the state.

In a world where Muslims are criticized for not doing enough to combat religious extremists, here was one who stood up tall and spoke up. And the state failed her. She should have got a bravery award. Instead, she is on  the run, her newspaper shut down, 15 employees out of a job and her children living with relatives with this stress hounding their exam preparations. All for doing a job and doing what a newspaper editor should do - stretch the scope of thought for readers.

One would think that we cannot blame the state for this. Oh but we can, because something even more stupid has happened. Two newspaper sellers,Tariq Ahmed Sheikh and Salman Kalam Sheikh were arrested for selling Avadhnama - why? - because they understood Urdu, and "could have refrained from selling it". This is Mumbai Police, JJ Marg police station. Proactive. Acting without even a complaint to act on. Without even a crime being done. What right does anyone have to harp on about the intolerance of Muslims when the establishment itself appears to be complicit in keeping them that way by hounding voices of sanity instead of empowering them?

And oh. The DEN Network block of NDTV has gone unreported by all - including NDTV. A media that can keep quiet while it gets strangled, perhaps deserves to be dead.

These are dark days for Indian media. I hope more independent voices emerge from fearless masses to take up the torch, because slaves of money fear poverty more than imprisonment.

18

Final Update: DEN Network customers now reporting that NDTV has been resumed on their service. No further reports of blocks seem to be happening. Any fresh information will result in a new post. This one will not be updated further.

 

Various reports of NDTV not being accessible through cable operators since approximately 8pm in Delhi are flooding social media. Insiders claim AAP supporters claim that this is because the BJP leadership perceives the channel to be carrying anti-BJP content. BJP supporters are saying this is "AAP drama". In the meanwhile, while the reason for the block remains unclear, it appears to be only for cable operators and DTH users are facing no problems.

So far, further enquiry on all reports seems to show that DEN are blocking NDTV citywide. Some reports of Siti +

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This post will be updated if more cable operator names get reported, or if DEN starts showing NDTV again. A map with areas will be added if required.

Update: ABP news too seems to have been blocked. "Insider" accounts (completely unreliable gossip) claim that there is no official word to block, however some pro-BJP channels have done so on own initiative. Example tweet:

Update 2: Several reports of other channels being blocked as well as one unconfirmed report of Tata Sky blocking NDTV - this would be DTH.

Update 3: North Delhi SITI set top box user reports all channels working.

Update 4:  Another user reports that cable operators have been instructed to not broadcast NDTV till the 7th. Awaiting information on the source of this update.

Update 5: TATA Sky showing all channels in Lajpat Nagar and probably several other places going by tweets without locations.

Update 6: Several people reported that DEN Network seems to have removed NDTV from its channel search list as well - this probably means that this is not a technical failure (as some BJP supporters are attempting to suggest) but a deliberate removal.

Update 7: no further reports of NDTV being off air. No reports of NDTV being available where it was blocked either. Perhaps the morning will bring more clarity.

Update 8: Sreenivasan Jain tweeted "We are looking into complaints of NDTV not being available in parts of Delhi.

CCN DEN appears to be showing NDTV but not Total TV and NewsX in East Delhi.

However other areas like Vikaspuri still reporting DEN blocking NDTV. One user reports that he called them up and they say they have orders.

Reports of possible other media censorship coming in as well.

5

Yesterday when I wrote the article saying that Arun Jaitley sending the notice to the blogger Prashant Panday was a good thing, I came across a couple of immediate condemnations regarding how Barkha Dutt got criticized for the same. It is hardly a new thing for the distinctions between free speech and slander to be erased in an attempt to defend favorites and I find myself in a lonely battle making all kinds of distinctions that perhaps we as a country are not ready for.

This post is not about the law. I'm neither a lawyer nor a judge. This post is about my interest in seeing freedoms upheld as well as accountability. And I think Arun Jaitley sending a notice to Prashant Panday cannot simply be bundled with Barkha Dutt sending notice to Chetan Kunte and one "good" or "bad" be applied to both. I don't think the law pulls such stunts either, considering that we continue to try cases individually.

There is a school of thought that appears to think that if accountability for his words can be expected from Prashant Panday, then why not from Chetan Kunte. Well, I suppose if the issue is of suing for defamation. anyone can send a notice to anyone. In fact, I don't even believe anything bad needs to have been said. If you want to send a notice, your sanity might be under question if you send it without reason, but no one is going to dispute your "right" to send it. So let us get that out of the way. Legally, I suppose both the cases are "equal" and whoever was here to only be reassured of that can quit reading at this point.

That said, I am not sure having an opinion on a person's actions rather than claiming facts is defamation. Which is essentially what Chetan Kunte had done in his article titled "Shoddy Journalism". To quote the beautiful wikileaks who preserved the statement he was forced to publish on the blog, if not the original post, he was specifically taking back the following:

* a lack of ethics, responsibility and professionalism by Ms. Dutt and NDTV Limited;
* that Ms. Dutt and NDTV's reporting at the scene of the Mumbai attacks during November 2008, resulted in jeopardizing the safety and lives of civilians and / or security personnel caught up in and / or involved in defending against the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008;
* that Ms. Dutt was responsible for the death of Indian Servicemen during the Kargil Conflict.

This, being extremely specific quotes in lawereese, I assume came from the notice that told him exactly how he could get rid of the monster threat riding his back  by publishing what he was told.

Now here is the interesting thing. I have no idea how Barkha Dutt and NDTV are certain the terrorists and Pakistan Army did NOT get information that allowed them to target Indian forces from either "Ms Dutt" or "NDTV Limited". It would hardly be the first time criminals used news coverage for information. Even if care was taken, Kunte is unlikely to have known that (nor has any media management to prevent information leaks in initial period been claimed, even in hindsight), so what Kunte published, he still published believing it to be true.

This cannot be called defamation. It is commentary and criticism of security risk. He saw TV and thought he was getting information that was sensitive and wrote that and criticized what he saw as a lack of judgment. I will concede that it is highly unlikely that Barkha Dutt or NDTV *wanted* to jeopardize anyone. But one cannot say what the terrorists used for information or how they interpreted it to declare so confidently that the reporting did not result in intel either.

With this logic, NDTV should not run talk shows that have people claiming that someone is guilty of something at all. This would probably include not criticizing the government, not calling Modi responsible for deaths in Gujarat and God only knows what else. So clearly there is a standard being applied specifically to the hapless blogger that they do not follow themselves. Even standard disclaimers of opinions not belonging to the channel would not make sense, since clearly the channel saw fit to broadcast them to millions of viewers - a call the speaker did not make. And channels officially cross lines too. For sensation (translates to money). For example:

In a far more serious accusation, Afzal Guru's lawyer famously wrote to NDTV:

"Your repeated news bulletins over two days reduced the issue of the hanging of Afzal and his Mercy Petition pending with the President to a very simplistic solution "Show repeatedly the video tape (an unlawful piece of evidence) of the alleged confession of Afzal recorded in police custody as breaking news, convince the viewers that it has brought out the ultimate truth, ask them to send SMS messages to NDTV conveying their opinions about the "—Phansi" (hanging) of Afzal, and then pour out the "—collective opinion" gathered in this manner to pave the way for the prompt hanging of Afzal."What a simple, quick solution of an issue involving the life and death of a citizen!"

This could actually have lost a man his life by mobilizing a lynch mob of opinion that made hanging him a security and political survival requirement rather than the merit of his petition. The tape that was broadcast was set aside by the court. Afzal Guru is on record saying that he was made to say those things by the police under threat to his family. It cannot be called a requirement of reporting, since the news was the petition and not evidence that the court had rejected. Nor could years old footage be called "news". And it was a completely deliberate set of actions aimed at influencing the result. Can't be called "collecting public opinion" if the information fed to them before they state their opinion has been struck down by the court.

Note: This is an example of how defamation with very serious consequences can look like. To have a problem with Afzal Guru, go to an older article and argue there.

To stretch the issue still further, Chetan Kunte was a nobody with a reach of maybe a few hundred people. Off the top of my head, I can think of several people whose words reach millions who have not pulled punches criticizing Barkha Dutt including some far more serious allegations related with what became troll fodder as "Barkhagate". I do not wish to reproduce them here, because the point here is not listing out criticism of Barkha Dutt, only saying that it exists and in my view, Chetan Kunte was an easy target to string up as an example.

The price he paid? His entire blog is gone. Fear. To get into legal confrontation with a top media personality and channel was likely way beyond his reach.

But going beyond all that, to some views on censorship and equality...

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

~ Anatole France

The law may be equal for all, but the very nature of it can be discriminatory and being written by powerful people, is usually more sensitive to their problems and insensitive to the problems of those who were not involved in the writing of the laws. For example, if you had a law against owning more than two cars, you wouldn't have too many poor people violating it.

I think it works on an intellectual level too. In a country where education does not even passingly touch important intellectual skills like logical reasoning or distinguishing between fact and opinion, there are very few with the skills to be compliant with the fine line between criticism and defamation. I would channel Katju here for a minute and claim that less than one percent of people actually have the ability to analyze and articulate themselves with the precision that can express themselves without doing wrong to another with refined nuance.

And the 99% who cannot include highly educated people and politicians too. Which is how rape after rape has people seemingly blaming women for it, when reading their words carefully makes an empathetic person realize that they are raising concerns about the inherent exploitation in the evolving stereotype of modern beauty that has women at risk because of catering to the male gaze in a highly normalized sexual objectification. They have no expression for it beyond describing the clothes, which is too broad and mangles the subject beyond sanity, but they are people who have seen it from close and they understand the danger, which has top policemen, teachers, politicians and parents ignoring all precedents of ridicule to voice it anyway.

It is no different with blogs. Boggers, tweeters... they feel. They write. They may not always have the refinement that is desirable, but in my view, inaccurate expression beats silence by a wide margin. It is primitive, undifferentiated, block like thinking that says all people who don't support X are supporters of Y. It is plain illogical to believe that everyone who agrees with us is noble and there is some evil entity going around paying people to disagree with us. Whatever. It is most certainly insulting to be called a slut for having a political view. At the same time, to make it more than it is - unrefined, clumsy expression - to me is discrimination, because there are few with the life experiences that would have brought them refinement in a world of institutionalized stupidity. To me, targeting the wrongs of their expressions while ignoring the concerns they are voicing is a bit like not hiring a low caste person for his looks or accent.

To expect the same refinement from anyone with an internet connection that frankly journaists don't always achieve in spite of it being a professional requirement, is plain discrimination, though the law will support suing anyone by strict standards. A line comes to mind from some romance nove i read:

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

On the other hand, it is also true that public figures, figures who introduce ideas that disturb, because they are new or cause us to question ourselves, people who take responsibility for collectives and cannot accommodate every interest.... such people also suffer extraordinary hostility expressed as criticism, accusation or slander. And surely they cannot be expected to be superhuman enough to always live thinking about the larger picture and never give in to the simple need to hit back in irritation or defense.

It is not a monolith. I think it is a world of conversations. The more we have, the better it is for us all. The less we attempt to overpower, the more diversity can thrive.

But then, that is my opinion.

It is also my opinion that everyone has the right to act with the freedoms available to them, and if such a freedom means that justice to the wrong experienced to the self needs a notice, so be it.

 

If you were reading with the expectation of "one right answer", sorry, but I don't have one.

1

My husband thinks that I am defaming him, and wants the other side known. Fair enough. I have typed this out as dictated by him (translated from Marathi).

  1. I don't want to say anything. I don't want to say anything from inside the home in public. I can speak with my close friends, but it is wrong to bring it up on social networks. Whether the problem is mine or yours.
  2. Bringing it up in front of the world means you are only going to say your side, and the world will only sympathize with you. It happens like that only, whether you intend it or not. If I do it tomorrow, I will do that only. That is human tendency. How many of them personally know you? But they will vote for you. "How much tormenting is happening, poor girl". The nature of person at such a stage is 100% like that. The grass is greener on the other side, only I am in a bad condition.
  3. I watch Satyamev Jayate with interest. I saw the episode on Domestic Violence. I have the same views as Aamir Khan, and I am personally angry that this is happening in my home.
  4. My story is a rare case. I am a victim of domestic violence by my wife. I cannot prove this, and I am in this sorrow, so I am bearing this silently.
  5. My innocence has been misused from day 1 of the marriage. From the start, some things were clear that they would not be allowed in my home. Before the wedding, and after, there have been many parties in my home, but when only my parents are not there. And the home was clear of all evidences before they came. This doesn't happen now. And I have stopped doing it too after all these years.
  6. I told my wife that if she wants to smoke, and she is quitting soon, then she can smoke in the home, but she continues till today.
  7. It is not my nature to talk about these things in front of the village. What will these people do? Will they patch up? My wife don't want to patch up.

I asked him if he wants to comment specifically on me talking about his alcoholism, since that is the most of what I talked about. He doesn't want to talk about it in front of the world like the rest of the issues from inside the home.

Anyone who wants to comment on this can speak with him on 9869433342, as he is not internet savvy and will not be able to monitor or reply to comments to this post.

Note: These views are not mine. These are a result of my husband feeling that the internet is being used to create an opinion against him, and he wants the other side of what I speak on domestic violence or alcoholism known. He sees himself as someone who has been wronged by me. I see this as any other reply to my posts, and am publishing it.