Quotable Quotes from #SAFoE

by Richa Kaul Padte

This blog post is the final one in a series of ten blog posts to report on the 'Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression' recently concluded in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The discussions during the two day Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression in Dhaka were rich and of a high level. We collected some of the most memorable quotes:

On hate speech

Sometimes hate speech is hidden… Under the rubric of scientific and artistic elements, the foundations of hate speech are laid down.’ – Salimullah Khan, Bangladesh

Having a blasphemy law furthers hate speech — it is predatory in nature and it targets minority religions and groups. Even discussion around the law is not possible.’ – Speaker from Pakistan

There is widespread denial of the fact that women, as a group, are historically discriminated against, and there are double standards here when it comes to our hate speech laws. There’s no doubt when something is racist, but when it’s deeply sexist, it suddenly becomes a question of protecting freedom of speech.’ – Shehla Rashid Shora, India

Why has hate speech particularly become an issue now? It has always existed. But hate speech online deals with business – the Internet itself is a business.’ – Ahmed Swapan, Bangladesh

A line must be drawn between people who threaten a leader, and those who say that they don’t like a leader.’ — Mohammad Shahriar Rahman, Bangladesh

Words themselves have tendencies, but they don’t work in a vacuum. They work through histories; histories of discrimination. – KS Park, South Korea

The distinction between hatred and hostility is very important. Hatred is a state of mind; hostility implies a state of mind that is acted upon. — Tahmina Rahman, Bangladesh

On surveillance and privacy

Surveillance is more insidious than censorship – a lot more can take place before people realise it is happening. And if it becomes institutionalised, then it is difficult to break away from that régime. – Chinmayi Arun, India

There is already pervasive surveillance. The things that we are railing about were set up without anyone railing against them. The problem is to dismantle the existing system.’ – Pranesh Prakash, India

Some people say privacy is a losing battle. People put everything on Facebook.’ – Prashanth Sunganathan, India

The real challenge for governments is to put citizens at the centre – not themselves.’ – Bishakha Datta, India

On freedom of expression

Under the Bangladeshi government freedom of expression is guaranteed. Freedom after expression? Nobody knows’ – Bulbul Ahsan, Bangladesh

Most of the time we act as citizen journalists, but now I am feeling insecure, after Asif[’s stabbing]. Who will ensure our security?’ – Woman blogger at public meeting


If we are going to look at the content produced on the internet from any geographical location, it is a reflection of what is happening offline there.’ – Mariyath Mohamed, Maldives

Never underestimate the intelligence of the common people in being to understand new technologies. That is a misconception.’ — Abu Safeed Khan, Bangladesh

We are in transition — we have the footprints of the military dictators in the constitution. And it is up to the democrats to wipe out these footprints of the military and fundamentalists one by one. Side by side we are sitting in the debris.’ – Hasanul Haq Inu, Minister of Information, Bangladesh

Power flows out of the barrel of a gun, the ballot paper, and now the click of the mouse. ICTs are a weapon of mass liberation.’ — Hasanul Haq Inu, Minister of Information, Bangladesh

Policy is not about doing good. It is about avoiding the worst possible outcomes’ – Rohan Samarajiva, Sri Lanka