Friday, January 30, 2009


Only two things are infinite; the universe, and human stupidity- Albert Einstein

A couple of weeks ago, a New York Times editorial about freedom of press in India quoted a Chinese citizen who had visited India, who was amazed by the brazen statements that journalists were allowed to make during the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai; in China such journalists would have been almost instantly muzzled, if not worse. But now it seems that for all the freedom of press in our country, at least NDTV wants to deny that same freedom to criticize to individuals. For some reason, they still seem to have trouble understanding that supporting freedom of speech precisely means supporting the freedom of those who vehemently criticize you and disagree with you.

By now the story must have become known to many. It's really simple; blogger Chetan Kunte harshly criticizes Barkha Dutt and NDTV for their reporting during the Mumbai attacks that sounded like they may have compromised the safety of those hostages still inside. At the very least they sounded highly intrusive for the people who had just gotten out; most people who have barely escaped with their life don't appreciate being bombarded with questions and having microphones being thrust into their faces.

It does not even matter whether I agree with the blogger's views. Digressing briefly though, I have to say that I at least partially do; because of the Thanksgiving holidays I was watching the coverage for almost a full day, and I do agree that many annoying journalists including Barkha Dutt were a tad too enthusiastic about getting details that would make more than a few special forces personnel uncomfortable. Freedom of speech cannot extend to publicly divulging sensitive information, although I understand the line is not easy to define or enforce.

But that does not matter. What the blogger did was express a personal opinion and linked to sources he thought were relevant. Now all that appears on his blog is a very sad-to-read apology tendered to Barkha Dutt and NDTV. His original post has disappeared, although still visible in Google Cache. To my knowledge we don't know what happened, but the most logical conclusion is that he was muzzled, bullied and threatened by NDTV's legal cell. Maybe he was asked to pay some ridiculous amount of money for "defamation". Now what; NDTV threatening Google to remove the post from their cache?

In doing this, both NDTV and Barkha Dutt have nicely shot themselves in the foot with a Howitzer (as if Barkha Dutt wasn't getting enough criticism and craved more of it). As Gaurav says, forget about rights and wrongs; they have made a huge tactical blunder. After Chetan wrote the post, maybe a few dozen bloggers at most were aware of it and either supported it or disagreed with him. Now hundreds more are not only going to know about his post, but are going to disdain NDTV and Dutt for their scare tactics. Now their name is going to be all over the Internet(s). What better way to popularize your organization and its views! Obviously NDTV hasn't learnt from another infamous incident.

As long as people don't learn that allowing someone the freedom to vehemently and vituperatively disagree with them is the most important type of freedom, their foot is always going to keep looking like an exceedingly palatable target. Shoot away!

Original source: Gaurav and Patrix
Updates: Desipundit

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To my knowledge we don't know what happened, but the most logical conclusion is that he was muzzled, bullied and threatened by NDTV's legal cell."

As I wrote in an update on my post, Barkha Dutt apparently confirmed in a Facebook message that NDTV indeed had sent Kunte a legal notice.

As for the availability of the offending post, I have archived it in my blog (see linked post above) and others have archived it in various other means, so it is unlikely to disappear either from view or public consciousness anytime soon.

2:36 PM  

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