A bedtime story about blog freedom

Calvin is being tucked into bed by his mother.

“Mom, can you tell me a new bedtime story? None of your Jataka tales about monkeys and crocodiles. I want a modern story.”

“Okay, how about this one? Across the world, there is a land with tigers and elephants in its forests, and very peaceful people in its towns and cities.”

“This is not a tiger story, is it?  Hobbes doesn’t like the ones with bad tigers.”

“No, it’s not.  So in this land, one day some bad guys attacked the peaceful people in hotels and hospitals, and train stations and other public places.”

“Did they have bombs?”

“Yes, and grenades and lots of guns. ”

“I hope you aren’t going to tell me a violent story now… did they show the explosions on TV?”

“The attacks were covered by the TV channels non-stop, and there were reporters in front of every hotel the bad guys were in, talking about how many people were possibly inside the hotel, and how the bad guys were taking them hostage, and so on.”

“Then did the commandos come in?”

“Yes, they did, and the TV channels also showed footage of the commandos around the buildings and so on.”

“Gosh! Didn’t the hotel  have television sets in every room? Didn’t the bad guys have cellphones? ”

“Yes, the hotel had television sets, and the bad guys probably had cell phones.  Their hostages certainly must have had cell phones.”

“Wow.  Mom, what were the reporters thinking?  Did nobody protest about what they were doing?”

“Many people did.  One blogger wrote about it,  criticizing the reporters and the reporting, but the TV channel brought out their lawyers and made him apologize and withdraw his post unconditionally.”

“What?  A news channel made someone apologize for voicing his opinion?”

“Yes.”

“And they made him delete.. isn’t that like suppression of free speech?”

“Well, they didn’t like the criticism.  They probably thought it was libelous.”

“Mom, tell me, is all criticism libelous?  When news channels criticize politicians, is that also libelous? What about news analysis, which is opinion mixed with fact – is that libelous too?”

“No, it is just freedom of speech. ”

“But Mom, individuals also have freedom of speech!  Does a free press mean the press should not be criticized?”

“No Calvin, that is not what a free press means.”

“Did the blogger have references?”

“He quoted Wikipedia, and what he saw on television.”

“Shouldn’t he counter-sue?”

“He probably doesn’t have the time to fight it out in court.  I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to him.”

“Did you read his blog?”

“Yes, I read the withdrawal, and had also read the original post.”

“Mom, it sounds like that David and Goliath story you told me the other day.  Except, this time David lost.”

“Okay, off you go to sleep now.”

“But Mom, shouldn’t other bloggers also protest?  And then, if I were an advertiser on that channel, I would pull out in protest.  What they did was very wrong, Mom.  Everyone has a right to his opinion, Mom, even if others don’t like to hear it.”

“You are right, Calvin, everyone should be able to voice their opinion.  Yes, other bloggers should protest.”

“Mom, that was a very sad story.  It also makes me very angry.”

“Yes, Calvin, it is very sad.  And I am angry too.”

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56 thoughts on “A bedtime story about blog freedom

  1. This is so horrible. I just read the original post (thanks for the google cache link!), and i am shocked.

    If we cant even express our opinions anymore, then what happens to our society? The press just rules the country and spread whatever message they want to, with no respect for anything other than TRP and sensationalism.

    Yes, it is horrible. The big irony here is that the muzzling is done by the press! The same press, which lives and dies with the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

  2. Pingback: Muffling a Blogger

  3. The whole episode is bad and the way i’d like to see it end is when the main stream bloggers start criticising and finally ndtv apologizes such an act. I wonder if that would happen – I hope the case is taken up globally and in India too.

    You presented it in a simple yet lovely way. Thanks and cheers 🙂

    It’s very heartening to find that a lot of bloggers have started protesting. I hope too, that NDTV takes notice of people’s opinions and apologizes.

  4. Pingback: Blogger Silenced by NDTV | DesiPundit

  5. I wonder whether they see the irony about freedom of speech. This is rubbish.

    apparently happens everywhere, a friend of mine in malaysia was telling me about how some friends of hers had been arrested for anti estabilishment posts. The point is here, its not even anti estabilishment – its anti press.

    Do you think I was too subtle in my post? I hope they see the irony.
    This is a classic case of the fence eating the grass.

  6. It is sad for a TV channel which among other things promotes alcohol (NDTV Goodtimes)
    takes product placement to the extreme (How come a cook on their cookery always seems to have ingredients in a ZipLock container all the time?), Places ambiguous ads from ambiguous educational institutes in the ticker (confusing people as to what is news & what is ads), shamelessly profits from peoples opinion by repackaing them as content get away with this?
    Vote with your remotes people!!!

    Wonderful article BTW! Keep it up.

    I agree. All those reading this, if you want to protest against what NDTV did, vote with your remotes. You have a choice, exercise it.

  7. Oh My! I had read that post too. Cannot believe this. Disgusting. So much for the freedom of speech. Can we do something about it? I will definitely write about it. This is complete crap.

    Yes, we can definitely do something about it – we can all write about it and let people know what is happening. I notice you already have – thanks for helping to spread the word!

  8. I hadn’t heard any of this before. Thanks for making me aware of that story.

    It really sucks big time. This is not okay. I can’t believe that the court actually ruled in favour of the TV station.

    I don’t think it ever went to court. My understanding is the blogger (Chyetanya Kunte) heard from NDTV’s lawyers, and agreed to a settlement.

  9. I wonder if Cheytanya knew that he had absolutely nothing to fear. Courts take light years in India, and nothing is ever achieved. Most importantly, NDTV had no case whatsoever!

    Oh, absolutely, I believe too, that NDTV had no case. Since when did quoting wikipedia and opining about TV footage become libelous? But then there is the time and effort factor involved in court appearances.

  10. Pingback: Barkha Dutt and NDTV, the Joke is on You! :: Seriously Sandeep

  11. Brilliant, Lekhni. Superb. Yours is the best post I’ve read on the NDTV thing. Shame on the media house and Ms. Media.

    Thanks. Yes, this whole issue does not do much good to NDTV’s image, but if this is what they do, it’s good we see their true colors.

  12. This makes me livid at two levels. One, the shameless defensiveness of NDTV and Barkha Dutt against violations of basic journalism ethics and national safety and their obvious ‘gundagardi’ with Chaitanya Kunte, who by the way, is not the only blogger out there to have condemned their conduct. Perhaps he was an easy target because he was relatively lesser known on the Indian blogosphere, which is why they ‘made an example’ out of him to send their message out to the rest. Infuriating, no doubt.

    But on another, more personal level, it infuriates me that I now do not have any Indian news channel to trust or look to for professional, ethical reporting. NDTV held that position in my mind until a couple of years back but it’s evident how their standards have been plummeting since. With this, they hit rock bottom in my mind. So whom does the Indian citizen look towards? The jokers on India TV? Aaj Tak? Or the teenaged reporters on Times NOW?

    Really sad state of affairs. I’m against media censorship but in the absence of self-regulation, it’s high time someone set out some basic rules for them to follow.

    I don’t know why they singled out Chyetanya. Interestingly, NDTV’s own website has this article which includes Chyetanya’s remarks AND an admission that

    “Some of the diatribe makes sense as the media broke a few rules to invade victims’ emotional space while reporting live – and making some inadvertent leaks in the process that could have put lives in jeopardy.”

    Interestingly, they say this right before they talk about Chyetanya’s remarks and someone else’s.

  13. NDTV should be lammed for this.
    Great post. Have posted a link in facebook.

    Yes, I would be very curious to hear their explanation for their behavior. It should be very, very interesting.

  14. Aww damn, I miss being flamed! I gonna go edit my 26/11 post and then put a ‘flame me NDTV’ banner.

    Or better start an anon blog on blogspot and login from a proxied IP. Ha!

    That banner creation idea sounds very interesting 😀 Seriously, I wish NDTV had stopped with printing a spirited defense by Barkha. Muzzling others is a very bad idea.

  15. Pingback: Freedom of Speech - challenged yet again! « placid freedom

  16. http://www.haindavakeralam.com/HKPage.aspx?PageID=8098&SKIN=B

    Real Talibans of India – Media

    When a female journalist called Soumya Vishwanathan was killed in India’a national capital, the Chief Minister of Delhi Smt Sheila Dixit blamed the dead female journalist for her own tragedy by saying that she was too adventurous. The Media wholeheartedly supported Mrs Dixit and went gaga over her shortly afterwards, when she won the Delhi Assembly elections.

    When Scarlett Keeling was raped and killed in Goa and the needle of suspicion pointed to a strong nexus between the Goan Ministers, the drug mafia and the sex racketeers, the media played it very safe by conveniently choosing not to pursue the leads from the investigation.

    When a 14-year-old German girl was raped by Rohit Monserrate, the 21-year-old son of Goa Education Minister Atanasio Monserrate who is also a powerful political figure in Goa, and the girl’s mother was repeatedly harassed and their lawyer was grievously injured in order to coerce him to withdraw from the case, the Media didn’t find anything extraordinary in that.

    When Taslima Nasreen’s press conference was rudely disrupted and chairs and all sorts of dangerous objects were thrown at her in full glare of the cameras by the “secular” muslim jihadis of Hyderabad lead by the MLAs of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), the Media didnt at all find anything amiss in that.

    When Laxmi Oraon, an Adivasi woman was brutally thrashed and paraded naked through the streets of Guwahati, Assam, with the whole police paraphernalia and official state machinery in tow, the Media chose to downplay the episode since, the victim was a hapless adivasi woman from the lower strata of society.

    The Media felt that since all the above unsavoury incidents had occured in the states lead by Madam Sonia Antonia Maino’s puppets, it is all perfectly legitimate and absolutely secular and progressive.

    Kudos to the Media who are the Real Talibans of India.

    I wouldn’t agree with the comparison of the media to the Taliban. But yes, there may be a (probably even unconscious) bias towards highlighting the issues of the urban middle-class. After all, picking which stories to cover is entirely subjective. It’s best to have a healthy cynicism towards all news analysis and just absorb the news content of any reporting.

  17. great post. NDTV must be slammed for this. This is utterly ridiculous and i hope an apology to Mr kunte follows suit. forwarding it to all

    I am surprised they haven’t responded at all so far.

  18. A great post
    I am livid, this means we ought to think twice before writing about THE Barkha Dutt. And then what is madam going to do about the Facebook group that says “Take Barkha off air”. This is sheer nonsense for as per my knowledge a blog is an online diary, my personal space where I can choose to write what I want to. Please correct me if I am wrong. And what about people like Barkha who defame people at the drop of a hat be it politicians or corporates–one who desnt tow their line. So much for our freedom of expression.

    I am not sure if it was Barkha who decided to silence the blogger, but the whole issue does leave a bad taste.

  19. Pingback: Freedom of expression « Sscribbles’s Weblog

  20. Lekhni, what really foxes me is why only this blogger was singled out? I remember, during 26/11 when Barkha was shooting her mouth off on TV, so many bloggers wrote updates on what they thought of her behaviour, all very unflattering, to say the least. A lot of posts come to mind, but don’t know if it’s appropriate to link up in the context.
    I’m not implying that others should also be made to pull down their posts, but shouldn’t collective action be NDTV’s first line of thought, considering that they are suing for defamation? Repressing one blogger does not mean repressing the entire community, in fact quite the opposite as they can see now !!

    I agree, did they want to make an example out of him? It’s quite puzzling why they chose to act the way they did. Of course, they cannot go against the entire blogging community, can they? So maybe they decided to try making an example 😉

  21. I’m surprised they singled out a blogger for this, I thought there was some pretty strong condemnation of the whole ridiculous situation from many people, including other media outfits. I know I’ve heard it more than once, at least, and not from this blog. Just what were they hoping to accomplish by threatening him?

    Maybe they thought he was an easy target. You’re right, it doesn’t appear to be a well thought-out move.

  22. Pingback: links for 2009-01-30 « Unjustly

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  24. Hi, Someone left a comment on my post, so wanted to confirm, do you have any confirmation regarding any law suit filed on Cheytanya? Is there any concrete proof of that?

    No proof, and I don’t believe there was a law suit. My conjecture is that Chyetanya may have received a legal notice from NDTV’s lawyers.

  25. Pingback: Barkha Dutt & ‘Freedom of Speech’. HUH! « The Prudent Indian

  26. Some items in the blog post certainly seem wrong – the accusation that the deaths at the hospital were linked to showing footage of the officer putting on helmet and flak jacket.

    However the coverage was certainly sensationalistic – the pressure to provide such was intense — the feeds going live on internet channels as well as cable and satellite tv.

    And NDTV should NOT have forced a withdrawal of the post – itself a misunderstanding of the internet.

    He may not have been right, but he has a right to voice his opinions. What NDTV did the first time around was right – use their huge platform to defend themselves and present their side of the story.

  27. brilliant!

    I am completely with u…have done a post too

    Hey, thanks! Yes, I read your post too. I agree with you that NDTV’s actions do come across as bullying.

  28. What a farce in the name of democracy – and to think it’s the media, of all things! I wonder if they even see the irony of it.

    I liked the way you put it. Hopefully, the subtlety doesn’t go past those who really need to get the message.

    -g

    I am hoping the irony and subtle sarcasm doesn’t get lost on them too 🙂

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  31. Pingback: WebGeekBlog » Barkha Dutt Vs Chyetanya Kunte

  32. Pingback: CKunte,NDTV and Barkha Dutt and the big farce of freedom of speech | Knayam.com

  33. Lekhni

    The day I was leaving for London, I watched a film called ‘A Wednesday’. It is a short Hindi film and was released months before the Mumbai Siege. For an interesting twist on how journalists with no particular principles can be easily manipulated both by keepers of law and those violating it, I would recommend watching it.

    Thanks for the tip. I shall look out for that film. Should be interesting.

  34. We the people are even more pissed off than we were about NDTV’s coverage by NDTV’s denial of freedom of speech and hereby protest.

    Great post!

    Another way to protest would be, of course, to stop watching NDTV/ visiting their website.

    Thanks for the kind words!

  35. One of the best posts I have read on the Suppression of speech and Bakra Dutt. Loved your writing style – whoever you are.

    I have taken the liberty to post it on rambhai.com – hope u won’t mind.

    Thanks for the compliment!

    I am fine with your link on rambhai.

  36. I’ve already removed their channel from my TV a long time ago. I’m still too disgusted to say anything… Barkha Dutt was the last person I’ve ever expected to act this way. In fact I used to worship her and support her when others criticized her. This changes everything 😦

    I LOVEE the way you have portrayed this incident.

    Hey, thanks! Much touched.
    I used to like Barkha too, many years ago..but I can hardly recognize her now.

  37. These journalists always feel insecure by good and bold writings by bloggers. Sorry NDTV, this is not the right way.

    They aren’t doing themselves much good by the way they are reacting..

  38. Pingback: Ironic - pseudo freedom “keepers” - walk all over « Yet another blog again

  39. Excellent post – me, a first timer to your blog. Came here through Al Jazeera who as always did an excellent job in pinting the Chetayan Kunte case to me; I’d missed it earlier as was out of town.

    NDTV has Narayan Murthy of Infosys on their board. As for the Rt. Hon. Ms. Barrrrka, please – JUST GO AWAY. We won’t miss you Barka, really!

    btw thansk for the google cache…Chaitanya was singled out as he is obviously a “weak” target.
    Is he still blogging – he shouldn’t stay silent!

  40. barkha dutt has done with the national spririt not knowing its consiquencies but the blogger should be taken in the same spirit and appreciate his concern for future reporting. let us learn a lesson.

  41. Loved the way the article has been written…..i was busy away from virtual world when all this happened and just came across it by mistake.
    Having grown up in a small town called Belgaum with CKunte the author of the blog i was curious to know what happened.Read a lot of blogs articles.
    i loved the way this bedtime story has been written and wanted to salute the author on it.

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