Minister of state for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar on Friday said that the NDA government would not interfere with freedom of the press under any circumstances.
Inaugurating the sixth edition of Malayalam daily ‘Janmabhoomi’, the mouthpiece of BJP’s State unit here, he said the NDA government’s policy on development of the media and communication would be straightforward and transparent.
“The government will not create a stumbling block in issuing licenses and other requisite permits,” he said.
Javadekar recalled that freedom of the press had been gained from the British with ‘great sacrifices’ of many eminent men, several of whom had been martyrs for the purpose.
He said it most unfortunate that press was ‘mauled’ during the Emergency and pointed out that there were great men even during that period who fought bravely to maintain its freedom and even underwent imprisonment.
For those opposed to the BJP’s ideology and policies, he said development of the media and communication network is essential for the healthy growth of democracy.
We started covering the news in earnest in January of 2012. We skipped our college classes to attend trials and protests, and we shared via social media photographs, audio and video recordings, and reports of what we witnessed. We covered leftist factions supporting arrested journalists, radical Islamic groups protesting abortion, and a trial involving game-fixing by one of the nation’s favorite football clubs. We were so new to all this that when a Turkish media critic told us we were engaged in “citizen journalism,” we had to look up the term on Wikipedia. Months later, Zeynep Tufekci, a Turkish-born professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who studies the intersection of technology and society, told me, “This is not ‘citizen journalism.’ This is ‘journalistic citizenship.’” Journalistic citizenship is an important model, not just for my country but for other countries where people aren’t getting the news they need.
A wave of political disaffection has also deposited democratic social movements and dedicated individuals across the country. Groups both within and outside the government, such as those that successfully lobbied for the groundbreaking Right to Information Act, are outlining the possibilities of what John Keane calls “monitory democracy”. India’s many activist networks – for the rights of women, Dalits, peasants and indigenous communities – or issue-based campaigns, such as those against big dams and nuclear power plants, steer clear of timeworn ideas of national security, economic development, technocratic management, whether articulated by the Nehruvians or the neo-Hindus. In a major environment referendum last year, residents of small tribal hamlets in a remote part of eastern India voted to reject bauxite mining in their habitats. Growing demands across India for autonomy and bottom-up governance confirm that Modi is merely offering old – and soured – lassi in new bottles with his version of top-down modernisation.
This study revisits the recent history of new protest movements in India. It analyses their causes and actors, their dynamics and forms of action, and their supporters and critics. When it comes to new protest movements, India obviously does not stand alone; but different especially from the ‘Arab Spring’, new protest movements in India operate in a functioning democracy. They do not want to tear down an
authoritarian regime, but to bring into the political arena issues that have either been neglected or not found adequate representation. They do so by mobilising groups of people who have not been involved in politics before, many of them urban, young, and belonging to India’s ‘new middle class’—however imprecise or even inadequate that latter term may appear. By doing all this, the new protest movements renew and revitalise Indian democracy.
“Democracy, the press and free enterprise are inextricably bound up,” says Roberto Civita, director of the Brazilian magazine Veja, the most widely read in Latin America: defending free speech would entail protecting the freedom of businesses, starting with the press. But what happens when a political leader is elected on a programme that includes challenging the interests of the private sector and media bosses? Ever since leaders determined to end (or try to end) neoliberalism came to power in Latin America, and parties defending the traditional elite became weaker, the media has had a mission. As Judith Brito, editor of the conservative Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo, puts it: “Since the opposition has been weakened so much, it is the media that effectively fulfils this role” (O Globo, 18 March 2010) — sometimes very inventively.