Archive for the 'Media' Category

Tarun Tejpal: The man in the mirror

As Tejpal faces charges of sexually assaulting one of his staff, the man and his magazine seem synonymous to the extent that few see a future for Tehelka without Tejpal. In Mint:

New Delhi: On a summer afternoon in London in 2007, the rooms of the Royal Society of Arts were packed with people attending the second day of a summit called The Challenge of India.

Among the speakers and guests, a tall, bearded man in an open shirt and a casual jacket strolled with confidence, his long hair pulled into a pony tail. Tarun Tejpal, the summit’s organizer, had been one of the biggest names in Indian journalism for around six years, ever since he’d started a website called Tehelka.com that had shaken the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government with its investigative sting operations.

The opening speech he’d made about the economic, social and cultural position of India was mostly upbeat but carried a note of caution. “The wonder story of India, by turns, skates on thick and thin ice,” Tejpal had said. “There are any number of factors from people to the environment that can derail it completely.”

Tejpal was skating on thick ice on that day, or so it seemed. The event offered an unusually rich crop of speakers, a heady mixture of Indian and international celebrities, intellectuals, businessmen and politicians. The previous day, visitors had heard Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, J. J. Irani, a director of Tata Sons Ltd, and Arun Maira, who was the chairman of Boston Consultancy Group India. More:

Nero’s Guests by P. Sainath

Nero´s Guests is a story about India’s agrarian crisis and the growing inequality seen through the work of the Rural Affairs Editor of Hindu newspaper, P Sainath:

Tunku and Siddharth — The Varadarajan brothers

Palash Dave profiles the brothers in The Indian Quarterly.

Click on the image to read the full article.

IQ-1

 

The Bin Laden Files

A series of Al Jazeera reports on leaked files from the Abbottabad Commission which reveals Osama bin Laden’s life on the run and the “collective failure” of the Pakistani military and government to locate him. (Read here)

 

 

The face of Buddhist terror: Myanmar bans Time issue

Time

Myanmar’s government has banned this week’s issue of Time magazine because of a cover story about a Buddhist monk accused of fueling recent religious violence in the country. State television announced that the decision was made “in order to prevent the recurrence of racial and religious riots.” More here in The Irrawady.

The story by Hannah Beech profiles the Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu who advocates social exclusion of the country’s minority Muslim population. Read AFP report here

YouTube video: Wirathu lashes out at Time magazine

On the media’s need for whipping boys

Nandini Sundar on her blog:

I am sick to death of TV panel discussions which ask whether human rights activists are soft on the Maoists, romanticise the Maoists and so on. Why doesn’t someone ask if our honourable politicians and security experts are soft on police torture and extra judicial killings?

Television is not interested in a serious discussion – all they want are whipping boys. The sight of Arnab Goswami mocking Prof. Haragopal for giving an “academic analysis” was especially nauseating, compounded by his showing off about “Emily Durkheim” (sic!). Why bother to have a panel at all, if only hysterical calls for the army to be sent in to wipe out the Maoists count as ‘analysis’, and every other viewpoint is seen as biased?

The media’s vocabulary is also very limited. I remember a particular excruciating interview with Binayak Sen where he said he “decried” violence and the anchor repeatedly asked him if he “condemned” it. As far as I know, the two words mean roughly the same thing. Nowadays, even before the media asks me, I start shouting “I condemn, I condemn.” I wake up in my sleep shouting “I condemn.” I am scared to use other words to describe complex emotions, because the media is unable to understand anything else. More:

Reporting poverty

Emily Brennan interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo, in Guernica:

Guernica: After reporting on issues of poverty in the United States for so long, what drew you to write about India?

Katherine Boo: I met my husband, who is from India, in 2001. When I first started going to India, I’d be at these dinner tables where people, claiming a posture of great authority, talked about what was going on in these historically poor communities. They always seemed to fall into two schools of thought: everything had changed with the country’s increasing prosperity, or nothing had changed in the lives of low-income people. I wasn’t a subscriber to either. In fact, I was familiar with these arguments from my experience of writing about the poor in the United States. Most of the people who do the talking about what it’s like for the very poor don’t spend much time with them. That circumstance transcends borders.

It was my husband, who had watched my reporting and fact-checking process, the way I use official documents and taped interviews to be quite precise, who first said to me, “Well, this might be something you can do in India.” And at first, I thought, “I can’t do it. I’m not Indian. If I did write anything, I would just be some stupid white woman writing a stupid thing.” But there were people around me who were saying, “If you do it well, then who you are becomes less important.” My husband and these others were interested in issues of social equality and fairness in India and thought it would be valuable to know what it was like for low-income people there, know it with a little more depth. There was plenty of reporting going on in India, but specifically what I do—follow people over long periods of time—there wasn’t much of that in India. (There are some people in the United States who do it, and do it very well, but there are not a lot of them here, either.) In my kind of work, you don’t parachute in after some big, terrible event, which is important and has to be covered, but offers only a glimpse. It’s the kind of work in which you ask, what is my understanding of how the world works, and where can I go to see these questions get worked out in individuals’ lives? That was really the question for me: whether I had anything to add to what had already been written. More:

Time Person of the Year 2012 runner-up: Malala Yousafzai, the Fighter

From Time magazine:

malala-TimeAyesha Mir didn’t go to school on Tuesday, Nov. 27, the day after a security guard found a shrapnel-packed bomb under her family’s car. The 17-year-old Pakistani girl assumed, as did most people who learned about the bomb, that it was intended for her father, the television news presenter Hamid Mir, who often takes on the Taliban in his nightly news broadcasts. Traumatized by the near miss, Ayesha spent most of the day curled up in a corner of her couch, unsure whom to be angrier with: the would-be assassins or her father for putting himself in danger. She desperately wanted someone to help her make sense of things. At around 10:30 p.m., she got her wish. Ayesha’s father had just come home from work, and he handed her his BlackBerry. “She wants to speak to you,” he said. The voice on the phone was weak and cracked, but it still carried the confidence that Ayesha and millions of other Pakistanis had come to know through several high-profile speeches and TV appearances.

“This is Malala,” said the girl on the other end of the line. Malala Yousafzai, 15, was calling from the hospital in Birmingham, England, where under heavy guard she has been undergoing treatment since Oct. 16. “I understand that what happened was tragic, but you need to stay strong,” Malala told Ayesha. “You cannot give up.” It was one of the few times Malala had called anyone in Pakistan since she was flown to England for specialized medical treatment after a Taliban assassin climbed onto her school bus, called out for her by name and shot her in the head on Oct. 9. Her brain is protected by a titanium plate that replaced a section of her skull removed to allow for swelling. But she spoke rapidly to the older girl in Urdu, encouraging her to stand up for her father even if doing so brought risks. As an outspoken champion of girls’ right to an education, Malala knew all about risk — and fear and consequences — when it comes to taking on the Taliban. “The way she spoke was so inspirational,” Ayesha says. “She made me realize that my father was fighting our enemies and that it was something I should be proud of, not afraid.” The next day Ayesha returned to school. And with that call, Malala began to return to what she seems born to do — passing her courage on to others. More

India’s rural newspaper

A rural newspaper, ‘Gaon Connection‘, has been launched from Lucknow. [See Mint]

The 14-page weekly broadsheet is the brainchild Neelesh Misra, journalist, author, radio jockey and script writer. In 2012, he co-wrote the screenplay for Salman Khan starrer, Ek Tha Tiger, along with film’s director Kabir Khan (see Wiki).

The paper’s mission statement:

A Hindi Weekly newspaper in 12-16 pages of Broadsheet with 4 pages in colour carrying hard News and Features from villages across the country

Run by a well-trained team of rural journalists

Boast of state-of-art technology from the leading newsrooms of the world to be used in page-making and printing

Employ rural reporters, who will be trained to use technology and mentored by the leading journalists of the country

RIP: Ardeshir Cowasjee, veteran Pakistani columnist

In Dawn:

One of Pakistan’s oldest and most renowned columnists, Ardeshir Cowasjee, passed away in Karachi on Saturday at the age of 86.

Cowasjee, whose weekly columns graced the Dawn newspaper from 1988 to 2011, was suffering from chest illness and had been admitted in a Karachi hospital’s intensive care unit for the past 12 days.

Born on April 13, 1926 to Rustom Faqir Cowasjee and Mucca Rustomjee, Ardeshir joined the family shipping business after completing his education from the Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi (BVS) High School and DJ Sindh Govt Science College.

He had two children with wife Nancy Dinshaw. His daughter lives in Karachi and works in the family business and his son is an architect in the US. Their mother passed away in 1992.

“Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day,” he wrote in a column in December 2011 for Dawn. More:

Mourning Cowasjee: Tributes in Dawn

From Cowasjee’s last column, Winding down, in Dawn on 25 December 2011:

On this last Sunday of this year, this is my final column in this space. Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day.

To quote Winston Churchill (without at all making any even vague comparison) “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter”. The weekly writing has been a long and rewarding haul, and the column can record a few incidents where it has made a difference. I must also thank all those readers who have responded, generally favourably and with common sense.

Mourning a man who mourned for Pakistan: Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn

Old man by the sea: when Nirupama Subramanian of The Hindu met him

 

Obama meets Suu Kyi

The Telegraph, Calcutta,  had this infographic on President Obama’s meeting with the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

And the Mirror, London, said “President Barack Obama sealed with a kiss the start of democracy in Burma.” The tabloid gave the headline: “Barack Oba-mwah: US President’s visit to Burma sealed with a kiss for democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.”

In The Telegraph

What scares the Taliban

Pat Bagley in The Salt Lake Tribune:

Chief censor in Myanmar caps his red pen

Thomas Fuller in NYT:

His office was once the site of an interrogation center run by Japan’s feared military police during World War II. And that is how U Tint Swe got his nickname: the literary torturer.

 “We didn’t arrest or torture anyone, but we had to torture their writing,” Mr. Tint Swe said, his serious expression yielding to a faint smile.

 Mr. Tint Swe was Myanmar’s last censor in chief, the powerful arbiter of what the public would read — and what was deleted from official history.

 For nearly five decades, military governments here examined every book, every article, each illustration, photo or poem before printing. It was a crucial exercise for the military, which sought control over nearly every facet of citizens’ lives.

 The censorship office, known by the Orwellian title of Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, infuriated generations of authors. Censors returned manuscripts with red lines through entire passages. Often they banned books or articles altogether. Any whiff of dissent toward the military or suggestion of government corruption was removed. Burma, the old name of the country, was deleted in favor of Myanmar, the name preferred by the military junta. More:

A reporter ‘friends’ his censor

Thomas Fuller in IHT:

I wandered into the room where foreign newspapers are “scrutinized” and was greeted effusively by Khaing Thazin Htwe, a smiling young woman with long hair and bangs in a pretty white embroidered shirt.

She was the person responsible for reading the IHT every day, paying special attention to the articles on Myanmar — my articles.

It was a surreal, Wizard of Oz moment. I had expected to peer behind the curtain and see an ill-tempered older man with thick glasses, a green eyeshade and a permanent scowl.

But Ms. Khaing Thazin Htwe could not have been more friendly and earnest. Her purple and turquoise name card was decorated with a heart. We chatted like old pals and exchanged Facebook information.

I told her I would friend her. More:

Anti-corruption cartoonist arrested for sedition in India

A political cartoonist whose drawings mock Indian government corruption has been jailed on charges of sedition, which is a non-bailable offence.  A defiant Aseem Trivedi refused bail at a court hearing on Monday in Mumbai, saying he would remain in jail until the sedition charges against him were dropped.[more here, here ]

Sedition charge sparks a wave of criticism

In Mint: Many messages posted on micro-blogging website Twitter criticized the cartoonist’s arrest in what became one of the top tweeting trends in the country over the 24 hours since his arrest. Social media expert Mahesh Murthy expressed his views on twitter saying, “How is Aseem Trivedi’s cartoon of 4 wolves & Bhrashtameva Jayate sedition? It’s corrupt politicos that insult the symbol.”

 A petition titled “Release Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi” is being hosted by change.org, a prominent website that hosts petitions for social causes. So far, 842 people have signed the petition addressed to R.R. Patil, Maharashtra’s home minister.

Also read:

Shivam Vij in Kafila: Ten Reasons Why You Should Sign the Petition at RepealSeditionLaw.in

In News Laundry: Media in the dock — a timeline

At NYT India Ink: An online guide to India’s political cartoons

Remembering Nanporia

Sunanda K Datta-Ray in Business Standard:

Word has just reached me by a circuitous route that N J Nanporia is dead. Somebody saw an advertisement announcing the sale of his art collection and told someone else who told me. It’s typical of the reclusive Nanporia that he should slip out of life so quietly. He would have endorsed my mother’s favourite lines of poetry, “And may there be no moaning of the bar/When I put out to sea.”

He was unique, the only half Indian (Parsee), half Japanese editor I know of. No one else since Robert Knight founded The Times of India in Bombay and The Statesman in Calcutta edited both papers. No other Indian I have known in 54 years in journalism has been so reluctant to push himself into the limelight. He was already editor when I returned to India in 1970 after a stint as the first Indian to represent The Statesman in London. A prominent citizen said to me, “At last you have a gentleman as editor!” Who was the last I asked, and he replied without hesitation, “Johnson.”

George Arthur Johnson, my first editor, and Nanporia were both silent men whose power lay in their pens. Neither was a pretentious phony prancing around the country and world. Both knew everything that happened without venturing out of the editor’s room. Nanporia’s editorial maturity, wisdom and breadth of knowledge were sorely missed in the vacuum after he was pushed out in 1975. More:

Burma abolishes pre-censorship of media. What does it really mean?

In The Irrawady:

The decision of the Burmese government on Monday to abolish the pre-censorship of articles in the national media (read more here) has received a mixed response. The Irrawaddy examines the consequences of this landmark move.

What did the PSRD say to editors?

The Burmese government told editors of weekly journals on Monday that, effective immediately, their outlets “no longer need to pass the censorship board.” Tint Swe, the head of Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), added that the easing of restrictions was the result of policy changes within the Ministry of Information.

So time to congratulate journalists in Burma?

Journalists who faced pressure and imprisonment in Burma cautiously welcomed the announcement that they will no longer be required to submit articles to the country’s draconian censorship board. But they are very aware that “Big Brother” is still there to monitor and watch.

The move is not enough to restore media freedom. However, it is safe to say that the government has made a small concession after shutting down local journals and facing pressure and street protest from journalists. More:

Probably the last handwritten newspaper in the world

“The ‘Musalman’ is probably the last handwritten newspaper in the world. It has been published and read every day in South India’s Chennai since 1927 in almost the same form. In the shadow of the Wallajah Mosque in Chennai, a team of six die hard workers still put out this hand-penned paper. Four of them are katibs — writers dedicated to the ancient art of Urdu calligraphy. It’s tough for the die-hard artists of Urdu calligraphy. But the story we tell here is not just of their desperation and despair. The fact is, at the office of ‘The Musalman’, the oldest Urdu daily in India, no one has ever quit. They work till they pass on. This is the story we tell.”

The Toast Masters: How Amul’s admen turn headlines into hoardings

Samanth Subramanian in The Caravan:

All day long, Rahul daCunha has been fretting over Oscar Pistorius and the Higgs Boson. He was fretting over them at home in the morning; he fretted over them on the way to his office, in a Colaba bylane near the Taj Mahal hotel; he is fretting over them now, in his compact cabin at daCunha Communications, with its The Subject Was Roses poster and its iPad hooked up to a keyboard and mid-afternoon light filtering through the window blinds in a shade that can only be called butter yellow.

But the Higgs Boson, discovered just yesterday, has particularly flummoxed daCunha. “It stuns me. It has become such a big deal! It’s all over Twitter, all over Facebook,” he says. “It’s even in Bombay Times. Even the idiot brigade wants to read about the God particle!” This satisfies daCunha no end. “We long for this kind of thing. Otherwise, we run so much with Bollywood or sports or politics. It’s nice to have this as a change of pace.”

DaCunha is a square man—not in the sense of being uncool, but in the sense of having a square head and square shoulders, set atop a solid square torso. As the creative head of daCunha Communications, it does not frequently fall upon him to pay attention to cutting-edge particle physics. But what India pays attention to, daCunha pays attention to. Along with Manish Jhaveri and Jayant Rane—copywriter and artist respectively—daCunha creates and runs the advertising campaign for Amul butter, now in its 46th year of punning upon the daily news, of siphoning the piss right out of the Indian zeitgeist. During this week in early July, that zeitgeist happens to revolve around a mass-imparting elementary particle and a disabled South African athlete who qualified to run in the Olympics.

“So, right now, we’re thinking of the Amul girl being the scientist, and the tagline having something to do with God’s particles,” daCunha says. He is wearing a powder-blue shirt, olive slacks and sandals; a small gold stud glints in his right ear. He doesn’t sit down; he merely leans against the back of his chair and thinks out loud. There’s no one else in the room but me. “And then with Pistorius, we’re in the Bread Runner zone, taking off on Blade Runner. I see him taking off in a relay race, taking the baton from the Amul girl. Except that the baton is really a pack of butter.” More:

The Underachiever: Outlook does a Time

Outlook magazine’s next edition, which hits the stands soon, has a cover story that brands President Obama “The Underachiever.” That was the title of Time Asia’s cover story on Dr Manmohan Singh two weeks ago.

The Outlook cover says, “America needed a reboot. He promised hope and change… can his lofty rhetoric carry him home again?” Time’s cover on Dr Singh had asked, “India needs a reboot. Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh up to the job?”

In troubled Pakistan, still time for high society

Declan Walsh from Karachi in NYT:

Can celebrity and fashion save Pakistan from its dark image? That’s the proposition of Hello! Pakistan, a glossy new magazine that has opened a new window into the lives of the country’s gilded elite, and rekindled an old debate about their role in a troubled society.

Hello! Pakistan is the local edition of the British celebrity magazine Hello!, famous for its soft-focus interviews with movie stars and lavish photo spreads of aristocrats and minor royalty. But the Pakistani publishers promise something different: an emphasis on their country’s “soft side” that cuts across the relentless Western focus on burqas, bombs and the Taliban.

“We’re not out to save the world,” said Zahraa Saifullah Khan, 29, the magazine’s Pakistan-born, England-educated publisher. “But this is a starting point, to show that we’re not all a bunch of terrorists with beards.”

Many young Pakistani professionals, tired of their country’s portrayal as a caldron of chaos, would applaud that idea. But not all agree that airbrushed images of the moneyed upper-crust is the way to achieve it.

“It’s life within the bubble,” said Shakir Husain, a software entrepreneur who set up Fashionistas Against the Taliban, a satirical Facebook group that has acquired cult status in Pakistani social media. “And that bubble is filled with self-congratulatory nonsense.” More:

In the FP Twitterati 100 list…

SOUTH ASIA

C. Christine Fair (@CChristineFair) — Georgetown University assistant professor, dog lover, and sharp-tongued South Asia expert.

Sadanand Dhume (@dhume01) — South Asia analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

Arif Rafiq (@pakistanpolicy) — Pakistani-American analyst, consultant, and blogger based in New York.

Bilal Sarwary (@bsarwary) — BBC reporter based in Kabul. A go-to source for breaking news from Afghanistan.

Declan Walsh (@declanwalsh) — Pakistan correspondent for the New York Times.

Omar Waraich (@OmarWaraich) — Freelance journalist based in Islamabad.

See full list here

Running away from the trolls

Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times:

Like a teenager in the giddy days of an early relationship, I found I couldn’t get enough. I woke up with a sense of anticipation and thought about it long after I had gone to bed. Back then there was the sheer thrill of finding new people and the silly delight in knowing the ‘cool’ people were following me back. With 140 million active users, 10 million of them in India, I was plugged into a giant machine that gave me access to how the world and Indians think. How could I not feel euphoric?

To older friends, convinced that Twitter is Salome’s dance inside the devil’s den, I countered: “It gives me an inside into what moves people.” Twitter gave me the buzz. It was often faster than all the screaming ‘breaking news’ banners on TV. Rinkle Kumari, for instance, the Hindu girl abducted and forcibly converted in Pakistan was making waves on Twitter for nearly a week before news channels picked up the story. And tweets by politicians like Omar Abdullah, @abdullah_omar, are often turned into full-length stories by newspapers the morning after. For journalists and writers, Twitter is also a way to reach out to readers.

Writer Ashok Banker, @ashokbanker, however, says he loves Twitter not as a tool to promote his books but “for its chatty interaction with people, being able to share news, tidbits, pics and info all day long and, of course, its ideal use for witty social commentary”.

Sadly my infatuation came with a short use-by date. Before I knew it, I was snarling, blocking, complaining. Twitter just wasn’t fun anymore. More:

 

Hackers take protest to Indian streets and cyberspace

At WSJ / India Real Time:

In the last few months, Anonymous –a group of hackers, or hacktivists as they like to call themselves –has gone after Web sites of political parties, government sites and Internet service providers, the latest being MTNL, to protest censorship on the Internet.

The group says they are opposing laws including the 2008 Information Technology (Amendment) Act and the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules of 2011, which they say unfairly restrict Internet freedom.

On Saturday, the hackers will take their protest to the streets, with an Occupy Wall Street-style march called ”Operation Occupy India” planned in 17 cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur in Maharashtra and Kundapur in Karnataka. The group has requested all protestors to wear Guy Fawkes masks, the symbol of Anonymous. More:

Open Letter from Anonymous to the Government of India

at Kafila:

Dear Government of India,

We are Anonymous. It has come to our attention that you have blocked filesharing websites in India. We also know you are in the process of making a Great Indian Firewall, to censor the internet in India. Anonymous believes, however, that pursuing this direction is a sad mistake on your behalf. Not only does it reveal the fact that you do not seem to understand the present-day political and technological reality, we also take this as a serious declaration of war from yourself, the Indian government, to us, Anonymous, the people.

We, the Anonymous are attacking the websites of Government of India, Internet Service Providers with a DDoS attack for past 15 days to spread our message. We would also like to bring to your notice that no content or the data was harmed in this process. More:

Also at Kafila: Anonymous, India and the Blackhat Spectacle by Oxblood Ruffin, a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow publishing and hacktivist collective.

The war for India’s Internet

Rebecca Mackinnon in Foreign Policy:

“65 years since your independence,” a new battle for freedom is under way in India — according to a YouTube video uploaded by an Indian member of Anonymous, the global “hacktivist” movement. With popular websites like Vimeo.com blocked across India by court order, the video calls for action: “Fight for your rights. Fight for India.” Over the past several weeks, the group has launched distributed denial-of-service attacks against websites belonging to Internet service providers, government departments, India’s Supreme Court, and two political parties.

Street protests are being planned for this coming Saturday, June 9, in as many as 18 cities to protest laws and other government actions that a growing number of Indian Internet users believe have violated their right to free expression and privacy online. A lively national Internet freedom movement has grown rapidly across India since the beginning of this year. The most colorful highlight so far was a seven-day Gandhian hunger strike, otherwise known as a “freedom fast,” held in early May on a New Delhi sidewalk by political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and activist-journalist Alok Dixit. Trivedi’s website was shut down this year in response to a police complaint by a Mumbai-based advocate who alleged that some of Trivedi’s works “ridicule the Indian Parliament, the national emblem, and the national flag.”

Escalating political and legal battles over Internet regulation in India are the latest front in a global struggle for online freedom — not only in countries like China and Iran where the Internet is heavily censored and monitored by autocratic regimes, but also in democracies where the political motivations for control are much more complicated. Democratically elected governments all over the world are failing to find the right balance between demands from constituents to fight crime, control hate speech, keep children safe, and protect intellectual property, and their duty to ensure and respect all citizens’ rights to free expression and privacy. Popular online movements — many of them globally interconnected — are arising in response to these failures. More:

The work of art in the age of mechanical injunctions

Lawrence Liang, a lawyer and researcher based at Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore, in The Hindu:

The internet has been abuzz with news of all major Internet Service Providers (ISP) in India blocking popular websites like Piratebay, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Pastebin pursuant to a Madras High Court order issued in response to a petition by the makers of the Tamil movie, 3. For those who don’t know, this is the film which features the song, “Kolaveri,” whose viral journey around the world was celebrated by virtually everyone, including the film-makers.

There are a number of unanswered questions about the validity of this, including whether the Department of Telecom was entitled to ask for sites to be blocked on the basis of the order and how the ISPs chose these particular websites since the order itself does not mention any particular website. This is not to mention the larger question of how the last 10 years have seen the dubious rise of John Doe orders as a pre-emptive measure against copyright infringement.

For those unfamiliar with John Doe orders, they are ex parte injunctions ordered against unknown persons.

Just to put this in context, ex parte injunctions are not the easiest things to obtain since they are based on the denial of another person’s right to be heard. So even for cases of violence against women, getting an ex parte restraining order is not easy. In contrast, in the last decade we have seen the ease with which one can obtain these orders for copyright infringement cases. More:

Miss Malini: India’s most popular celebrity blogger

Aastha Atray Banan in Open:

It is 10 pm on a hot night in Mumbai, and I am at Tote, one of the city’s swish spots. Officially, I haven’t been invited. But since I am tagging along with Malini Agarwal of MissMalini.com, it’s perfectly fine. She is the host for the evening. I get a glass of wine and stand in a corner, trying to maintain an air of nonchalance as she makes conversation with the Royal Challengers Bangalore team, all here to raise money for Magic Bus, an NGO that works for underprivileged kids. Oh, there she has Yuvraj Singh talking to her, and now Virat Kohli is shaking her hand, and, ahem, Siddharth Mallya just kissed her cheek. She is dressed in a black and white mini. Her bare shoulders are pulled back, and she offers the cricketers—including Daniel Vettori and the imposing Chris Gayle—directions on what to say and do for the cameras.

Miss Malini maintains a smile that never falters. As soon as the cameras are off, the cricketers disperse to get themselves drinks, but Malini is still at work. Her fingers never stop clicking her BlackBerry, and as she air kisses her way to the lounge where the party is in progress, it’s clear that she is thinking about getting home and uploading this post on her blog as soon as she can. “I can never switch off,” she says, “My blog is a living, breathing extension of me, so if I don’t turn off, neither does the blog.” Now and then people stop her, saying things like “You were wonderful”, “We just love your blog” or “Oh my God, it’s Malini”, and you know she is every bit the celebrity her blogger moniker says she is.

This January, Huffington Post, no less, called her the ‘most famous blogger in India’. The 34-year-old offers her readers her very own take on Mumbai’s party scene, along with posts on celebrity fashion and movies. More

A user’s guide to Indian free speech

By Nilanjana Roy:

A list of controversial subjects Indians shouldn’t write about if they want to avoid giving offence (and going to jail)

1) Dr Ambedkar, Mamata Banerjee, Bal Thackeray

2) Dead politicians

3) Living politicians

4) Mahatma Gandhi

5) And his sex life

6) Rama, Sita, Ramayanas, Ramanujan

7) Just kidding. You can write about Ramanujan.

8. Hindu gods and goddesses

9) The Prophet and Islam

10) Any other gods, goddesses, temples, mosques, gurdwaras, churches, systems of belief, places of faith past and present, religious rituals, scriptures, priests, followers etc.

11) Duh. Religion.

12) Sex is fine, especially if it involves starlets, but not if it involves 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

More:

Varieties of censorship

Do corporations hinder the free flow of news more than the State? Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph:

The Indian State does indeed inhibit the free flow of news in very many ways. Archaic, colonial-era laws permit it to ban books, magazines, and even maps that offend one or other State functionary. The State’s paranoid attitude in these matters is also reflected in the ban on private radio stations carrying news bulletins. Community radio, a participatory and emancipatory medium that has deeply enriched democratic functioning in many countries (including Nepal) is made unfeasible in India, because the law does not permit, say, a radio station run by a village panchayat in Jharkhand commenting on corruption in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme.

The State regulates and curbs the media in more specific ways as well. Mamata Banerjee is not the first, nor shall she be the last, chief minister to stop giving government advertisements to newspapers that may, for entirely sound reasons, have been critical of particular policies of her government. Individual ministers in both the states and in the Centre are known to have instructed their department to favour, in the matter of government ads, certain newspapers rather than others. Some have gone further, sending party goons to physically harm reporters who dared write less than flattering reports about their department or their government.

State interference in the media is often arbitrary and sometimes excessive. The cover story in the newsmagazine was therefore welcome, but I was struck by the fact that in seven or eight closely printed pages, there was only one short paragraph dealing with what, in the India of today, may be as important a threat to press freedom as State intimidation — namely, the distortions in the free flow of information imposed by large and powerful corporations.

Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of ‘paid news’, whereby periodicals reproduce PR handouts from companies extolling their achievements as if they were neutrally reporting the ‘news’. Some papers have gone so far as to sign private treaties with companies, getting a share of their stock in exchange for favourable coverage on the news pages. More:

Live from Mount Everest: A blog!

At NPR:

As I write this, it’s about 1 a.m. in Nepal and, according to National Geographic magazine’s iPad app, a group of climbers is camped on the side of Mount Everest, possibly sleeping (though we can’t be totally sure), at nearly 21,000 feet. They expect to make a final summit push in early May.

Implications aside for a moment, this knowledge is pretty amazing. Two years ago, for better or worse, a 3G network was installed around the foot of Mount Everest. Which allows intrepid climbers like Conrad Anker, Cory Richards and Mark Jenkins to basically live blog their ascent for the magazine.

It’s not the first time an Everest climb has been cataloged in almost real time (and really, you don’t need 3G to do it); but Nat Geo says this is the first time that a publisher is giving real-time updates in a tablet app. Some of the dispatches can be found on Geographic’s “Field Test” blog. But to see it all — including the map that tracks the climbers — you’ll have to get your hands on an iPad. More:

Bhutan’s media revolution

AFP report:

A new broadsheet newspaper has joined Bhutan’s media revolution that has seen more than 10 titles sprout up in the tiny Himalayan nation since the start of democracy in 2008.

“The Bhutanese”, another English-language paper, hit the market on Tuesday for the first time and will initially appear as a bi-weekly.

“We feel that there is always a market for a good quality paper,” Tenzing Lamsang, the chief executive editor, was quoted as saying on its website.

“The Bhutanese has not been planned as a short-term paper but rather a long term venture dedicated to serious and good journalism.”

Bhutan, a sliver of mountains wedged between India and China, famously banned television until 1999 in a bid to protect its unique Buddhist culture, but the advent of democracy has brought media freedom. more: