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Censorship on the rise in India


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Last updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

  Media, Free Speech, Censorship, The Hoot  

Cases of censorship were on rise in India during the first quarter of 2014. The Quarterly Report of the Free Speech Hub of revealed this and brought out that India was amongst the five countries throughout the world to block websites, Verizon disclosed in February this year while India’s Centre for Development of Telematics was named an ‘enemy’ of the Internet by media freedom group, Reporters without Borders.


HNF Correspondent


Censorship in democratic India continues to be on the rise, says the 2014 first quarterly report of’s Free Speech Hub Tracker that has recorded 52 instances of censorship in the first quarter of 2014.

“Actors as diverse as the courts, student organizations, state governments,  publishing houses, the Lok Sabha Secretariat , the Central Board of Film Certification,  a lawyers’ association, Hindu groups including the Shiv Sena,  the RSS,  and the Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti, the ministry of information and broadcasting, Tamil groups and individual  industrialists  moved to exercise various forms of censorship,” says the report.


The censorship cases included in the report were trained on books, newspapers, films, social media (Facebook) posts, telecasts, and the exhibiting of films and staging of plays.

The report marks the blackout of the Lok Sabha (LS) TV on February 17, 2014, when the AP Reorganization Bill was taken up for consideration, as the worst among all cases of censorship. The channel was switched off during the final moments of voting in the Parliament to create a new state, the state of Telangana.

Quoting the statements of LS secretariat that said "LS proceedings couldn't be telecast live due to technical reasons" and the statement of the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, who said that the lack of live coverage was a "tactical glitch", not a technical one, the report holds Lok Sabha Secretariat responsible for keeping the important events off-air.

Taking into account specific incidents occurred in the first three months of this year, the report brings out the cases of highhandedness by right wing groups to intimidate and attack publishers, performers, social media users and, even, persons from the press.

“Hindu groups of different kinds triggered censorship of books, films and performances in as many as 12 different incidents,” says the report.

“The case that attracted the most attention was the decision of Penguin Books to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s controversial book, The Hindus,” the report highlights.

Such a decision from Penguin encouraged the group called Shiksha Bachao Andolan, based in Naraina Vihar in New Delhi, to target another publisher, Aleph, which had published a book by the same author On Hinduism. Though the publisher said it would not succumb, its offices directed the withdrawal of copies from bookstores in Bangalore.

The report by the Free Speech Hub also takes into account the cases of films fighting bans on screening citing that three of these have been at the behest of right wing or pro-Hindutva groups. In support of its claims, the report includes the cases of two documentaries 'The Gujarat Promise’ and ‘Ocean of Tears’ and one movie ‘Ragini MMS2.’ All the three films faced the ire of right wing groups.

“Saffron intolerance spilled over onto news media as the Dwarka Shankaracharya slapped a journalist because he was annoyed at his uncomfortable questions about Modi while RSS workers attacked Caravan magazine’s offices for publishing an interview with Samjhauta blast accused Aseemanand,” the report said.

Citing as example the two separate petitions came up before the Supreme Court urging action against hate speech, prompting a directive from the apex court to get the Law Commission to prepare guidelines on the issue, the report mentions that the intolerant groups and individuals, sometimes, take judicial rout seeking bans on books, films and hate speech regulation.

Even whistleblowers are not spared. “The Madras High Court banned a whistleblower website Savukku, run by Achimuthu Shankar, reportedly because of its publication of some of the 2G tapes,” the report cites.

While attacks on the media continued with impunity as police, in separate instances, beat up journalists covering protests in West Bengal and in Imphal, the media was also targeted by militant student groups and the police in separate incidents in the North-East.

Apart from recording instances of cyber censorship and attacks on the media, the Free Speech Tracker has also recorded a number of instances of self-censorship, a disturbing trend that bodes ill for free speech.

“Government surveillance, phone interceptions and blocks on websites were still the order of the day,” the report concludes saying that “India was amongst the five countries throughout the world to block websites, Verizon disclosed in February this year while India’s Centre for Development of Telematics was named an ‘enemy’ of the Internet by media freedom group, Reporters without Borders.”


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