Mr Sibal, are you okay?

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Censorship
Tags: , , , , , ,

News just in is that the Prime Minister is planning a new ministry and it is going to be named the Union Ministry for Propaganda, to be headed by Dr. Kapil Sibal with Shashi Tharoor as his Minister of State. The job of this ministry will be to ensure that any online content that criticises the First Family and the Prime Minister will first be sent for screening to the ministry concerned, and heads of these portals will be put in jail for even accepting such stuff. Just kidding, just kidding….

But what is not one bit funny is the UPA government asking google, Facebook, Yahoo and others to censor content, to supposedly protect the ‘fair’ name of the Gandhi-Nehru family and others among their list of favourites, who are constantly being lampooned on the Internet. Even more appalling is Sibal’s very Goebbelsian remark that “They will have to give us this data, where these images are being uploaded and who is doing it.”

Sibal seemed a nice chap, so what got into him all of a sudden? Is he trying to upstage his good friend Digvijaya Singh, who till now had excelled in shooting his mouth off, or is he trying to ingratiate himself to the First Family or is he trying appease his and the party’s vote-bank? OR is he trying the age old ruse of diverting the attention of the public at large from ticklish issues like FDI in retail, Lokpal Bill, 2G, CWG etc? So he now wants to “define” what we can say and in the same breath says he respects the freedom of expression! Bit of an oxymoron isn’t it?

Does his ranting have anything to do with the videos floating around that question the financial dealings of certain members of the First Family? Frankly, if the people who find themselves in these videos feel they are being defamed or maligned they should ask the website to pull them off and sue, if they think that would serve the purpose. I think that is justified. But to do what Sibal is suggesting websites do, is stretching it a bit much.

Amitabh Bachchan sued a Swedish newspaper that published reports about his and his brother’s links with Bofors, and won. Whether people believed they were involved or not, the Bachchans believed they were not and sued. The paper retracted the stories, apologised and paid the Bachchans for the damage caused to their reputation. Let the people who feel they are being maligned do the same.

Sibal has also outdone himself by his latest harangue on what he claims is ‘objectionable’, ‘blasphemous’ and ‘derogatory’ comments on the Internet. Who decides what is ‘objectionable’ ‘blasphemous’ and ‘derogatory’ and how?

And can he define what is blasphemous? If he is so concerned about it, why doesn’t he also ask social networking sites to pull down all the anti-India – and more specifically anti-Hindu – rhetoric that’s floating around, most of which emanate from a few neighbouring countries. They have been around for ages, how come no one from the government thought of complaining to Facebook about them? Why has his government never attempted to block those sites? Is it because it suits them to drive a deeper wedge between the two communities, and in doing so appease the party’s vote-bank?

I thought this government had learnt its lessons from the Emergency, when the prince and his henchmen tried to subvert democracy and a free press, by having secretaries sitting in newsrooms of newspapers vetting copies or confiscating film reels. Even the great ‘democrat’ Atal Bihari Vajpayee along with his trusted lieutenant Brajesh Mishra was not averse to using strong-arm tactics to rein in the media when they wanted to. But Sibal has taken this quite a few steps higher.

In 1962 during the Chinese invasion the press roasted the prime minister for his decisions and his blind faith in his defence minister. He was advised to muzzle the Press, but he refused saying that a free press was the very essence of democracy and if he were to black out the press he would never know what the people felt about him and his government. That Prime Minister was Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, one of the founders of the Congress party that harps on his name and ideals even today.

To end on a humorous note, a Russian tourist, on his first visit to the USA in the 1960s checked into a hotel and asked his American host what the TV was doing in his room. The American told him,” We have television sets in every hotel room, which beam over 50 channels. And we watch all of them”

The surprised Russian remarked, “Back home in Moscow, we too have a television set in every hotel room. Only IT watches you.”

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