Saturday, August 05, 2006

The State and the Bloggers


“The powerful always seek to limit freedom by talking of the misuse of freedom, but freedom cannot be called freedom unless one has the right to misuse it … More than evil itself, I have learnt to fear the menace of good that comes in the form of improving others”
Rabindranath Tagore, Jibansmriti

The recent decision of Government of India to impose a blackout on blogsites, place freedom loving citizens (and netizens) in an impossible situation. What we face is a check on freedom of expression in the name of terrorism. Whether it be the citizens or the netizens, there won’t be any difference of opinion as to the question of terrorism, for, the vast majority among both would be the first to condemn it. In fact, the longest of battles against all kinds of terrorisms, both of beliefs and opinions, words and swords have been fought by those who stood for freedom of expression and speech.

According to reports, the Department of Telecommunications has passed an order to ISPs to block several websites.Most ISPs have complied with it and as of now blogs and sites hosted Blogger, Typepad and Geocities are not accessible. This decision in fact pushes the bloggers into that dark and ominous area between two establishments – the state and terrorism - both of them traditionally intolerant to expression of difference and diversity of opinion. It seems our governments are still in a time warp. In a way, internet technologies have made any kind of censorship obsolete or impossible.

The bloggers have already got into the act of opposing the ban and creating a networked wave of protest against this ban. Wikipaedia the free software encyclopaedia has already launched Bloggers Against Censorship at campaign, as part of the Censorship Wikia. As part of the campaign against censorship, they have documented all relevant information in this regard, putting the whole thing in perspective and creating an open platform for joining hands, exchanging views and to create a coalition of sorts against the ban. Also given are tips for bypassing the ban. It is indeed commendable on the part of the blogging community to have stood up to the challenge using technology as a catalyst and tool in the socialisation and democratisation processes. This is actually a pointer to the radical politics of the future.

According to Aniwar Ahmed, a free software activist, this also shows that Government of India did not learn anything from the past experience of banning yahoo! Groups in the name of militant Khasi tribe. Its popularity and visibility only went up by leaps and bounds instantaneously, despite it being blocked by all ISPs! Clearly, you can’t ban anything on the internet… Blogs are the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression. (

If we need to fight terrorism or any kind of intolerance for that matter, the way is to open up areas of expression, exchange and communication, and not shutting them off or censoring them. It will only lead to the consolidation of the enemy and to black out vital areas from public gaze. In other words, we need to eradicate terrorism, but not through other tools of intolerance but through creating trust through transparent and free means.

For, we are already living in a very censorious climate, and all freedom loving people, whether it be minorities or citizens, “would benefit more if they demanded more speech and diverse representation than seeking to silence already existing spaces” (Shohini Ghosh)


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