Wednesday, July 19, 2006

BBC NEWS: India bloggers angry at net ban

The comments that follow relates to an article on the website of BBC News (online edition) today. The Indian blogging community is up in arms (a lot of Indian bloggers at least...) about the banning of a number of blogs by the Indian government, scroll down for excerpts and a link to the story.

I'm an avid reader of Time Magazine. It offers a limited amount of reading per issue, as opposed to some of its more weighty competitors, but tends to have interesting features in manageable portions. The first issue of July featured India. It had some really interesting comments in regard to the country's entrepreneurial spirit. Having noticed the article below on today's BBC News online edition, two elements of Time's feature comes to mind.

Time noted that much of India's economic boom is due to the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals, pursuing opportunities brought about by globalization and the internet - regardless of the government not coming to the party. The latter being stated in the context of bureaucracy, poor service delivery and generally poor infrastructure.

The Magazine also noted that India's economy was booming because it is a (the most populous) democracy. Within the unrestricted realms of a democracy, regardless of the government's poor performance, individuals have the opportunity to excel - only requiring drive, innovation and skills. Time contrasts India with China more than once, with the editorial staff's American bias for the former -because of its democratic nature- coming through quite strongly. It is argued that ultimately the Indian model is more viable, by virtue of being based on the freedom entailed in a democracy. In the long run it has to outperform the centrist, restricted and top-down Chinese model.

Although Time's coverage is peppered (or spiced?) with a good dose of American idealism, it does ring true. Especially if you prescribe to democratic values... It has to be said that major failures / challenges in Indian society (poverty, Aids, etc.) is not glossed over by the feature. Time also points out that the success of India's IT industry has lead to an increase in wages, moving some of India's IT giants to, ironically, look towards outsourcing some functions (read jobs).

Having read the above mentioned feature and having been quite impressed by India's promising future, the BBC article below comes as a bit of a disappointment. It could easily be blown out of proportion, I know. However, it is a worrying development. Freedom of speech should ideally have no barriers. Never mind how many people are offended by the contents of a particular blog. One can only hope that this is a trend that will die in its infancy and not be allowed to mature. The seemingly strong response from India's blogging community is a good start. I hope India will not start copying the bad habits of its nemesis China. Then who will the West bet on as its favoured emerging super power...?

(This story provide interesting similarities with an issue on which I blogged earlier this month, under the caption Citizens, bloggers & the 'Fourth Estate')

BBC NEWS South Asia India bloggers angry at net ban: "India's burgeoning blogging community is up in arms against a government directive that they say has led to the blocking of their web logs.

The country's 153 internet service providers (ISP) have blocked 17 websites since last week on federal government orders.

Some of these sites belong to Google's Blogspot, a leading international web log hosting service.

Indian bloggers say that the decision is an attack on freedom of speech...

...A federal government notification of July 2003 says it can ban websites in the interest of:

  • sovereignty or integrity of India
  • security of the state
  • friendly relations with foreign states and public order
  • preventing incitement to commissioning of any cognisable offences.

The sites that have been banned include ones with right-wing Hindu links and an anti-Communist one. At least four of them are on the Blogspot hosting service."

1 comment:

Mike said...

In an update to this issue the Indian Government has responded to the (negative) coverage its blocking of a number of blogs has received. In effect it says that it only wanted to block one blog that could have caused sectarian violence, but that a technological error caused more sites to be blocked. Sounds suspect to me, but all the same, see the NY Time's coverage here: