Freedom of Speech- the good & the bad

What would a blank page signify?
To an artist, it may be an opportunity to create!
To a writer, it could be a window for his or her imagination.
So what if it’s an editorial, that’s left blank?

It certainly can’t be about running out of ideas!?
By all means it is a sign of protest! The editor’s as well as the newspapers way of outcry.

The darkest day in the history of post-colonial India. The day that marked the epitome of a fascist rule. The day that threatened the roots of democracy. That challenged the visions of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru or Gandhi, who believed in strengthening democracy at any cost, but not at the cost of autocracy and absolutism.  This day is associated with the curbing of any political or individual freedom. The Fundamental Rights, which are ascribed to every Indian citizen were taken away w.e.f. 26th June 1975, 8.00 AM, when the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, spoke these words, “The President has proclaimed Emergency. This is nothing to panic about.”

Did she mean her words when she asked people not to panic? Was there no panic in the aftermath of emergency? How is the day of emergency documented? What are the sources which speak about the people’s experience of Emergency?

Also, Sanjay Gandhi decided to cut off power immediately from the Shah Zafar Road, which supplied to the newspapers. Thus, they thought they were going to control each and every medium of expression. But he forgot that Hindustan times and The Statesman are situated in Connaught place, which kept running under the veil.

Also, Indian Express came out a blank editorial section in order to show the disappointment led by declaration of Emergency.

Khushwant Singh was a supporter of Emergency, but was displeased with media censorship. Indira Gandhi had replied to his request on lifting media censorship, “There cannot be any emergency without censorship of press.” The censorship was unequal and unfair. As Times of India and HT were left out, who continued appraising Sanjay and Indira Gandhi.

“Many newspapers were printing wrong news to incite and mislead the people. Our purpose right now is to ensure that the current situation is one of peace and stability. This is the meaning of censorship.”

– Indira Gandhi’s All India Radio Broadcast informing the public about the proclamation of the Emergency.

This led to the birth of underground media such as Satyavani magazine. Parallel or underground media continues to be a powerful form of expression even today.

In a Press Conference organised by Rajya Sabha TV in 2015, Kuldeep Nayyar, an eminent writer and journalist, gave his bits of narration of the remembrance of Emergency. He recalls being threatened by the Minister of Communication and Information, VC Shukla, who had overnight replaced IK Gujral, who was naive to not air Indira Gandhi’s Boat Club Rally live, on which he was ruthlessly dealt by both mother and son alike. Also, Indira’s conviction verbatim, given by SC was broadcasted on air in Hindi on All India Radio. Indira Gandhi desired to control every bit of power and centralise it, and thus she chose press as the first target to achieve what she wanted. This speaks for the power speech and media together hold.

Failure of Media after emergency came to an end: The media did use itself to the optimum after Emergency had ended. Had media been more strategic in showcasing the tyrannies carried out during the emergency, and return rule of 1979 would not have been possible by the Congress Party with Indira Gandhi as its leader. This victory gave a thrust to the Congress and an opportunity to justify and be proud of the act of emergency carried out. Media and Press did not succeed in mobilizing people.

“Freedom of the press is the motor that binds together the bricks of democracy.. and it is also the open window embedded in those bricks”- Dr.Shashi Tharoor

Media is a plat form to express which get direct support from freedom of speech and expression.

John Milton in his speech Areopagitica says that without this freedom there can be no health in the moral and intellectual life of either the individual or the nation.

People should be free from such hurdles by sharing their speech virtually. I think freedom of speech is most valuable aspects of society to build up in fruitful way. Imposing restriction in speaking may damage and survive longer without getting productive result. Freedom of speech is guaranteed by Constitution of India but it does not allowed to speak whatever one feels like, which can cause harm disrespect to anyone. There are laws to control freedom of speech and people and media must utilise the liberty with care.

Freedom of speech has many pros but there are a few factors that make you question how far this right should be extended. As the recent news of a student who took the social media by storm. A simple college going student non-violently flashing her opinions on placards.

Some said her words were antinational and others said they were her opinion and she had every right to give her comments on any issue in this free country.

As students we could not understand one thing and that is why arguments are based on half-baked knowledge. One who has the freedom of speech must at least look through the history of what they are giving an opinion on.

As social media is emerging to be or rather has emerged to be one of the fastest, easiest, largest and in many cases most controversial form of media today.

Earlier quotes from a specific national daily newspaper was a valid argument but in today’s technically advanced era social media cannot be quoted. Why is it so?

This is because of the unchecked and unrestricted access to this platform. Anyone who has internet can post anything that pops in their head. Without filtering their thoughts in no stages whatsoever without realising the impacts and implications it might have.

This is the reason why social media is unreliable and this is the reason things get blown out of proportion. We humans have different perception for the same things. Our tolerance has been lowered due to over utilisation of freedom of speech and limitation on liberty to listen. We don’t read, we don’t sit back to understand and think. We don’t strain our thoughts because this generation is losing touch to social sensitivity.

One’s freedom can’t be hampering others peace.

As in the above recent DU student’s case, she could have just protested about the issue that was of central concern. Her extra effort to gain attention by pilling on and bringing in too many issues all together on the table made the good willed movement into a chaos it turned out to be.

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to slaughter”- George Washington

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