Month: January 2015

Freedom of speech and tolerance

There are people who say freedom of speech and expression should be absolute. Freedom with restrictions is not freedom. Some talk of tolerance of differing opinions. Some talk of limits on freedom or self-censorship. Some claim to be liberals open to all ideas and tolerant of contrary views.
Tolerance is an illusion. Tolerance is a myth. Journalists who claim to be modern and liberal on English news channels are as intolerant as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, VHP, Bajrang Dal and so on.
Sakshi Maharaj came under attack for saying every Hindu woman should have four children. He wanted one to fight on the border and one to join sadhus. There are many countries where women are encouraged to have many children. In Australia a woman gets 4,000 dollars when a child is born. Germany has incentives for women to have children. In 61 countries/territories governments are worried about declining population and want more children. Japan’s population has declined over the years. In 2014 it declined by more than a million.
Ramesh Tawadkar, Sports Minister of Goa, came under attack for his statement on LGBT. He talked of setting up treatment centres similar to Alcoholics Anonymous to make LGBT youth normal. One anchor said his statement is shocking. One newspaper demanded his apology. Ramesh Tawadkar has freedom of speech and expression like every citizen of India. If his statement is shocking to bigoted journalists who consider themselves modern and liberal but are antiquated and illiberal so be it. Journalists and others who oppose him are intolerant. India is a sovereign country. IPC 377 is the law of the land. UN Secretary General has no business to tell what should be the law of India.
Who decides what hate speech is? It is subjective. David Brooks has written that what is legal in France would have been opposed as hate speech in USA.
Some anchors are hostile to people in favour of death penalty. Once Nidhi Razdan was hostile to Yashodhara Raje Scindia because her BJP colleague Sushma Swaraj had favoured death penalty for rape.
Charlie Hebdo had sacked a cartoonist Sine. He had drawn a cartoon of Jean Sarkozy who married a rich Jewess Jessica Seaboun-Darty. Charlie Hebdo succumbed to pressure from Jews.
Every country has limits on free speech. In France denial of Holocaust or Armenian Genocide of 1915 is a crime. In some countries denial of Holocaust is a crime.
There are two aspects of free speech. First is what is allowed by law. Second is reaction of people. Many times what is allowed by law is opposed by many people. The protests may be peaceful or violent. When protests turn violent what is legal is banned. Those who attack people and destroy property are not punished.
Many discussions on TV channels are fixed. Surjit Bhalla has written about his bad experience with NDTV Dialogues. He was called for a discussion to counter Jairam Ramesh. Before 15 minutes of discussion time he was told Jairam Ramesh is not coming and he can go home. After he went home he came to know that Jairam Ramesh and other panellists were there and discussion was held.

Charlie Hebdo attack

On 7/1/2015 terrorists attacked Charlie Hebdo office and murdered two policemen and ten others; according to one report all of them journalists, according to another report eight of them journalists, one maintenance worker and one visitor. Charlie Hebdo is a magazine known for cartoons that offended many people. Some cartoons offended Muslims. The terrorists had masked their faces. They claimed to be members of Al Qaeda. After murders they left in a car.
Leaders of different countries and Muslims leaders in France condemned the attack. John Kerry said the journalists were martyrs for liberty. People demonstrated against the attack and many carried badges with the slogan Je Suis Charlie (I Am Charlie.) Marie Le Pen demanded institution of death penalty.
Charlie Hebdo journalists knew their cartoons offended Muslims. They did not care. French law gave them liberty to draw those cartoons and they used it. They reprinted Danish cartoons. Many other newspapers and magazines had reprinted Danish cartoons. Charlie Hebdo’s previous office was fire bombed.
Terrorists kill many people. Some attacks make news. This attack made news because it happened in Paris and targets were famous people.
Many condemned the killings. Some of them said freedom of speech and expression should be limited and people should not do that offends others. Indirectly they blame Charlie Hebdo journalists for offensive cartoons. Some others said the magazine provoked Muslims. French ambassador Francois Richter said no one has to buy the magazine.
Laws regarding freedom of speech and expression differ from country to country. In some European countries denial of holocaust is forbidden. Muslims want ban on cartoons that offend them.
Charlie Hebdo had security but that was not enough. Policemen should have been bulletproof from head to toe.
Charlie Hebdo’s usual circulation is 60,000 copies. They want to print a million copies for next issue.
Offence is subjective. What offends one can be funny to another and vice versa. The Interview was a funny film for many Americans but offensive for many North Koreans. North Korea’s comparison of Barack Obama to an African monkey was offensive for many Americans but funny for many North Koreans. In India there were TV ads which were funny for Indians and offensive for Africans.
In India constitution and law limit the freedom of speech and expression. Many times what is legally permissible is banned because some people take offence and resort to violence. However if there is support from others there is no ban. Some people found PK offensive and wanted a ban on the film. They belonged to RSS group. Then Akhilesh Yadav said PK is a good film and made it tax free in UP. After that Nitish Kumar praised the film. There was no ban.
Some people in film industry who were vociferous votaries of freedom of speech and expression and were against censorship changed their views when they joined political parties. Khushboo and Mahesh Bhatt are examples.