PANAJI: Amid concerted government attempts to censor the internet and the recent blocking of file-sharing websites due to a court order based on a petition by producers of a Tamil film, speakers at a discussion on Saturday felt that there was a fear of freedom of expression among those affected by it, primarily the powerful.
At the discussion on ‘freedom of expression and privacy: Proposition’ held at Goa University, senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta felt the increasing attempts at online censorship were a consequence of the government being unable to formulate coherent responses to the widening of the limits to freedom of expression on the internet.
He was of the view that all stakeholders should be consulted before any legislation in this regard.
Vickram Crishna of Privacy International spoke about “the fear of freedom of expression”. While stating that the internet access had jumped due to the increased usage of smartphones, he observed that “there were concerted moves to make these things (censorship) happen in India”.
“What use is access, if we don’t have freedom of expression?” Crishna questioned.
Geeta Seshu of The Hoot was of the opinion that the world was also seeing the rise of powerful web players such as search engines and social networks with no obligations to permit free speech.
Chinmayi Arun of the National University of Juridical Sciences echoed this view. She felt freedom of speech and expression were vulnerable because they receive very little protection from non-state factors. She felt surveillance may soon become as serious a threat to free speech as censorship.
Advocate Apar Gupta felt there are better safeguards against banning books, while web content bans see almost no safeguards.
Touching on the ban on file-sharing sites, Lawrence Liang of Alternative Law Forum felt private bodies such as ISPs were being given powers of the state.
Anja Kovacs of Internet Democracy Project was critical of the government instructing internet service providing companies to setup servers in the country. The internet as we know it will stop to exist if we have server requirements in all countries, she said.
Frederick Norohna of publishing house Goa 1556, Siddhart Narrain and Danish Sheikh of the Alternative Law Forum, Paromita Vohra of Devi Pictures and Werner Souza also spoke on the occasion.