By Anonna Dutt:
Freedom of Expression is assured to all Indian citizens under the constitution. This lays the foundation for a free press which alone is responsible for making people aware of what is going on around them. But the information that is present in the newspapers and on television is not everything that the citizens would like to know. There is a lot that happens backstage!
There is a lot that never makes the headline. With all the corruption and the threatening in place, rarely can the journalists do their duty. With Journalism being the Fourth pillar of democracy, it Â becomes imperative for them to bring forward the truth. As if all the monetary censorship and paid news was not enough, the government is trying to tie a leash around the only avenue from where the public can acquire diverse information and engage in communication -Internet!
With the new IT Act 2011, the free exchange of information on Internet too would be restricted. The government has tried its level best to curb the freedom of the netizens in the past by demanding to access the emails of Blackberry users and now, by bringing up the IT law!
The act has been drafted to keep in check the security breaches that happen due to free flow of information on the internet, or so the government says. In truth, such a law would give the power to the government and the corporates to get any content removed from the web. After looking at the role that the social networking websites played in getting out the story of involvement of Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi in the 2G scam, I really think people would believe in the power of internet.
The draft talks about the removal of content that is ‘Disparaging’, ‘Blasphemous’ or ‘Hateful’; what exactly do these terms refer to is not defined accurately. It gives a person a huge margin for ambiguous interpretations!
If this act gets passed as a law, it would become a deadly weapon in the hands of the rich and the powerful. The content on the web would be according to their whims and fancies. This would help them further their cause at the cost of ignorance for others. Apart from that the main reason given for drafting the act- security — might not even be taken care of.
Passing of the act would be a complete loss statement for the general public. They would be losing out on their last opportunity for expressing their thoughts freely as well as the last avenue offering them the scenes behind the curtain, that too without any benefit.
The UN has said that free internet should be a fundamental right of every citizen.
It would be a tragedy to have such a law in the country. India would not be much better off than China then. As our constitution says ‘We the People’, thus placing us at the topmost position in the hierarchy of power.
What do you think about the new IT Act? Do voice yourself!