Defending Free Speech

Item: Chyetanya Kunte wrote a blog post “Shoddy Journalism” on Nov 27th, 2008. I cannot give you a link because he has since removed it from his blog (although you may be able to read it on google cache). He posted an apology to NDTV and Barkha Dutt on Jan 26th:

I hereby repudiate and withdraw my post dated November 27, 2008 titled “Shoddy Journalism” and, more specifically, the following allegations / statements made in the post titled “Shoddy Journalism” namely:

* a lack of ethics, responsibility and professionalism by Ms. Dutt and NDTV Limited;

* that Ms. Dutt and NDTV’s reporting at the scene of the Mumbai attacks during November 2008, resulted in jeopardizing the safety and lives of civilians and / or security personnel caught up in and / or involved in defending against the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008;

* that Ms. Dutt was responsible for the death of Indian Servicemen during the Kargil Conflict.

I don’t know for sure but it could be that NDTV and Barkha Dutt threatened to sue Kunte for defamation. A blogger cannot possibly afford to fight the mighty NDTV and Barkha Dutt. The latter have deep pockets. Deep pockets because their programs are watched by millions of people and therefore have big advertisers and that’s that. The power of NDTV to squash those who oppose it arises from “We the People.”

Item: Christopher Hitchens:

In the hot days immediately after the fatwa, with Salman himself on the run and the TV screens filled with images of burning books and writhing mustaches, I was stopped by a female Muslim interviewer and her camera crew and asked an ancient question: “Is nothing sacred?”

I can’t remember quite what I answered then, but I know what I would say now. “No, nothing is sacred. And even if there were to be something called sacred, we mere primates wouldn’t be able to decide which book or which idol or which city was the truly holy one. Thus, the only thing that should be upheld at all costs and without qualification is the right of free expression, because if that goes, then so do all other claims of right as well.” [Emphasis added.]

I also think that human life has its sacrosanct aspect, and though I can think of many circumstances in which I would take a life, the crime of writing a work of fiction is not a justification (even in the case of Ludlum) that I could ever entertain. Two decades on, Salman himself is thriving mightily and living again like a free man. But the culture that sustains him, and that he helps sustain, has twisted itself into a posture of prior restraint and self-censorship in which the grim, mad edict of a dead theocrat still exerts its chilling force. And, by the way, the next time that Khomeini’s lovely children want to make themselves felt, they will be armed not just with fatwas but with nuclear weapons.

Item: Robert Spencer — Defend Free Speech

Related posts: Freedom of Expression. Note especially Hitchens on Free Speech.

Author: Atanu Dey


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