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India: Defending Freedom of Speech

Categories: South Asia, India, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech

The Indian Blogosphere has been buzzing over the weekend with posts and comments surrounding a controversial educational institute. Vantage Point, a blog run by Gaurav Sabnis was sent an email by this said institute to remove any posts [1] that questioned the claims of the institute. The original article that inspired posts on blog can be read at JAM Magazine here [2]. One of the driving forces behind this magazine, Rashmi Bansal of Youth Curry was at the receiving end of malicious anonymous comments [3]. Many blogs including Sambhar Mafia [4] and Desi Pundit [5] have been following the developments [6] closely.

A lot [7] of Indian blogs [8] have been echoing this call for support [9]. The latest development has been that Gaurav Sabnis has quit his job with IBM [10]. He says -

…I have resigned from IBM. The decision is entirely my own and I was not asked by IBM to resign, nor was I pressured in any manner by any executive from IBM. I took the decision in view of some really bizarre threats that were apparently made by IIPM to IBM…

In the same post [10] he puts forward a strong case for his previous post and why he stands by what he said in his blog -

…my intention to stand by my posts, since I believe in freedom of speech. I have written nothing that can be thought of as libel. IIPM is an organiation in free India which makes some claims in its advertisements. What I did was exercise my right as a citizen, by responding to the information contained…

This isn't the first instance of Indian bloggers facing the wrath of corporate houses and big organisations, but it brings us back to the same question – In a country whose USP is the Biggest Democracy, where has the Right to Free Speech disappeared? Is it easier to bully a blogger than a magazine or a Main Stream Media publication? Does a blogger have any rights?