Are We a Free Country?

The picture on the left shows a screenshot from NDTV’s website, where they exclusively discusses the topic of moral policing. What caught my attention to this portion is the title of the discussion – A free country? And I couldn’t help but ponder about the same question now on the light of NDTV allegedly suing an Indian blogger from Netherlands. Are we still living in a free country and is our freedom of speech protected?

It all started out with the blogger Chyetanya Kunte (link from Google cache) blogging about 26/11 like the rest of us. And it contained an external reference (from Wikipedia) about Ms. Dutt’s reporting from Kargil. The blogger did not say/accuse anything which has not been said/accused before. But it looks like the folks at NDTV decided to sue the blogger and asked for an apology. What we see now in his blog is an ‘unconditional apology‘ and he has taken down the blog post.

I agree that it is okay to take offense. NDTV or Barkha Dutt is very well within their rights to take offense. But is suing the blogger the way to solve the matter? And suing for what? Drawing an external reference in his post? The media all over talks about the freedom of speech, liberal values and such. Especially NDTV and Barkha Dutt in particular have always talked about such causes in the recent past. But now this incident makes me wonder if all of it was just a business/marketing stunt. We have a lot of pseudo-liberals in our world anyway.

Much of the criticism that has been raised against the television media during the 26/11 terrorist attacks were genuine. We as the people of this country who help you get on with your business (don’t tell me that journalism is all about social commitment and such cliched things), holds the right to criticize the media’s wrong actions because it affects us, the people of India. Sometimes in a sharp manner, when it is needed. And if the media had cared a bit about professionalism, professional ethics and their commitment towards the society and the country, they would have taken corrective measures. But instead they go around suing people.

And it is interesting to note that the other media houses are so far silent on this issue. Scratching each others’ backs, perhaps? Sardesai ji?

And to Barkha Dutt:

I had high regards for you Maam. I even used to talk in support of you when so many people – men and women – were against you and your journalistic ways. I had thought that they were plain jealous. I thought you were a courageous woman for which I had admired you, but are you really such a fragile, insecure person who can’t take a critique or talk/discuss/debate it? (you still host that show “We The People“, right?) Or is it just that people when they are placed in the higher positions in their professions or develop a larger-than-life image in the society that they live in, become more intolerant because their ego shoots up?

The message that you are sending out to the liberal community of India and the world with this incident doesn’t look so good on you or your TV channel, Maam. Think about it. And we as bloggers of India are not going to just shut up and go scared.

Shame on you. And shame on NDTV.

Blogbharti’s coverage on the issue:

NDTV, listen to the defiance
‘Shoddy Intimidation’

Barkha Dutt Padh Legi!
NDTV: the loss of irony

10 thoughts on “Are We a Free Country?”

  1. Same here. I used to hold her in such high regards, watching her move diplomatically from one extreme to the other during the “We the people” debate with such grace and poise. She was one journalist I truly admire but now… I dunno what to say… am very confused. Like for instance, last night for the first time I was watching NDTV again after this incident, and somehow I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I found my thumb slowly switching the channel to CNN IBN and Times Now. I was even preferring Headlines Today to NDTV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I woke up this morning and my opinion still hasn’t changed :(

  2. Dear Joe,

    In this matter I differ with you. I think it will not be good to write what ever one feel on blog. Personal abuses must be eliminated. The particular blog seems to attack Mis Barkha Dutt. It was not only she or her channel reported these things during the days of Mumbai attack. Almost all the national medias followed the same practice. Even one MP from Kerala Mr. Krishnadas was describing about his position in the hotel through Malayalam channels. (Luckily terrorist don’t understand Malayalam. He and his colleague were escaped.:)) Neither the security people nor the media had a clear picture of what was going on inside the hotels and I think it lead to all those blunders.

    I do believe that NDTV and Mis Barkha Dutt have the very right to challenge any allegations made against them. The particular blog charges Barkha Dutt’s action as purpose full. To me it seems that the blogger is saying “by her actions Mis Burkha Dutt was purposefully helping the terrorist.” It is objectionable.

    I also admire Barkha Dutt for her excellence in reporting and anchoring many talk shows. She was awarded with Padmasree.

    With regards.

  3. >> Kima: Same feelings here too. :-) I am just waiting to hear Barkha’s or NDTV’s stand on the issue.

    >> Manikandan: The question is what prompted Barkha or NDTV to sue the blogger. Is it just that the blogger called Barkha an idiot? I’ve been called harsher names in my blog in both Malayalam and English languages for my post on the right-wing. It did offend me personally in the beginning, but then I began to give it up. There are way too many people that way, and you cannot go worry about them. So, I, an ordinary person could ignore them, while such a professional journalist couldn’t. Is this the kind of liberals we have in this part of the world? Who easily takes offense on being called an ‘idiot’? I would agree if the blogger had called her a ‘maggot, ugly face’ etc.

    Then that point zeroes in that perhaps Barkha’s and NDTV’s issue was not with the word ‘idiot’, but the blogger’s external reference from Wikipedia which accused Barkha of being the reason behind people being killed in Kargil conflict. Now this is not an accusation that the blogger himself had made, but the army personnel had accused the same. So why did not Barkha go sue the army chiefs? Because it is an inflammable territory? And a blogger is just that – a blogger, so becomes an easy target?

    These are the reasons that pisses me off.

  4. I may not like Barkha Dutt or whoever (never admired her ever), but I prefer to follow the laws of the land. The libel and defamation laws I mean. As journalists we are trained to do so and I guess it’s just to ingrained that for me freedom of speech is not name-calling. Even if one quotes from another site, there are certain words to be used to make it legal, like allegedly, or accused of. Unless the person has been charged and convicted in a court of law. Such laws protect innocent people too so it’s a good law.
    I am personally terrified of breaking the law, even the red light! :)

  5. Dear Joe,

    I don’t think that it is due to that word ‘idiot’. When I read that blog I felt as the blogger accusing Mis Burkha Dutt purposefully helping terrorist. This may have provoked NDTV and Mis Bukha Dutt. Many times she had faced more harsh words while anchoring We the People. (I think We The People is over as they stopped their tie with Star) But she never responded to such comments. All elelctronic media including DD was reporting in the same way during Mumbai attack. All were showing the videos of Hemant Karkare. But the blogger only blames Burkha and her channel.

  6. Just now finished reading and commenting on much the same topic on Jhunjhunwala’s blog. Pasting relevant parts of my comment here as well.

    Thanks for speaking loud on the inappropriate, idiotic and unnecessarily-sensational media coverage on the Mumbai terrorist attack. Our channels like NDTV and Times Now stooped too far below some of those stupid American regional channels during those days. I was particularly frustrated with Arnab Goswamy as well when they violated the police’ plea not to show close live shots and he cribbed even more when live transmission in Mumbai was taken offline.

    New generation sensational journalists like Barkha and Arnab are only good to shout for the hypocritical needs of the upper middle class’ and Page 3 people. I haven’t heard them fighting for the common man’s cause anytime. Forget Times Now, it’s all about tabloid kind and yellow journalism but I expected better way of serving news from Prannoy Roy’s channel.

    (Once Nalini Singh, the famous journalist of Doordarshan was invited by Barkha on her show. Nalini had criticized the journalism of today’s channels then)

  7. The press people have that kinda OCD, they can never shut up. For getting better news, they go on exploring and digging.

    I’m surprised that she’s taken offence, I mean when journalists tear many peoples’ image apart with their words, why are they themselves so sensitive?

    “Are we a Free Country?” is a old question. The answer is no.

  8. forget what barkha said or the media coverage ,freedom of speech , all i would like to ask is that how did china manage to reduce their population ,whats happening to pollution level cant we create solar or electric vehicles,
    or at least reduce taxes on non polluting ,vehicles all these things consern me ,not something in the past ,media will learn
    next time it will be more professional.
    hope indian government can prevent another 26/11 thanking you.

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