Clear And Present Danger: Government Scared of Opinion, Rants And Raves?
Edits | May 25, 2021
Seemingly there are 7 points to ponder over as to why the government has resorted to using the stick of law to control media, social media at first and the rest of them later. Here is a list of the seven points, good to ponder over in the present circumstance, citing a hidden fact that the first application to control these media was moved only by a BJP activist way back, to control them for jurisdiction of taxes, and revenues generated in India. Now since that has not worked hence there is this tussle to control them on the editorial front, consequently to squeeze their revenue and make them sing BJP tunes. Read BJP backed by its central government.
- PM Modi quit Twitter a long time back. The account was given to some social organization to run and benefit from it. It appears that BJP has outlived the use of social media, for now. Politically it is Twitter which works best for all politicians. Hence it is only logical that PM Modi bans the other Twitter accounts so as to gain sole supremacy on opinion and anti-opinion. During the last general election BJP had the largest social media team, ever recorded in history of a democracy to fight and win elections.
- UP elections and that of three more states are on the anvil. Any controversial opinion being floated on social media would definitely hamper the political campaign of BJP. After widespread losses in Bengal, and no other wins which were expected in states like Tamil Nadu, BJP must be introspective as to what went wrong, pointing that one of them being live social media accounts that tell-tale everything, during a political campaign. Threatening the media is the best option to control it.
- The present second wave had its genesis in the Bengal elections and in the MahaKumbh. If that was only spread by social media, it is only logical to ban it for further loss of grace during the UP campaigning. This motive is other than point number two here, since this is related to the Covid crisis.
- In the run-up to the elections of the four states, BJP will definitely have a sweet deal with the farmer leaders. They will either be paid off or they will be silenced, and instigated to lend a helping hand in the campaign. It will not be imaginative to think that former leaders with their personal large land banks will end up backing Modi and Yogi in the final run-up to the UP elections. After all they have a lot at stake financially, socially and of course politically.
- Once you ban a certain sect of media, or journalists, or create an upheaval in the journalistic world either at the right level or at the owner level, one tends to start controlling that medium. All over the world it is a given that the journalists are either set to order, or put to jail if they don’t mend their ways. By threatening the biggest and widespread media, which is at the moment prevalent in India, BJP automatically would control the rest of the media. It can be termed as a top-bottom approach and works well across the world in the short term, till the use of media again comes to the pleasure of the ruling party. Even during the Emergency, by Indira Gandhi, many journalists and press owners were put to jail or threatened with dire consequences. So it is no different that BJP may use the same tactic. After all, the government is all powerful, and there is nothing in the law, either in the criminal or in the civil code of conduct, which prevents questioning the media, or its writer or his pen.
- In the run-up to the ban or post-censorship on media, social media, it will act out thus: A few tweets or posts will be inspected, notices will be raised, some cases will be fought, some judicial pronouncements will be made that will calm the situation, and then the political campaigning will keep going on. Post censorship will die its own death after a few cases are fought and after there is an equal mudslinging between the government, the journalists and the companies which run the media. The tactic of post censorship has never worked in any country or democracy. It has only come to haunt the imposter by leaps and bounds. Even today without the 25thMay 2021 dictate, the Post censorship exists against the Indian media but is usually not practiced. The view of political parties is that one day they may sit in the opposition or in power, hence keep the media on its side.
- Finally to say, that this move of the government may only be limited to one tweet or one incident, could also not be far-fetched from the looks of it, though the government may want to control a lot of media at this moment since it has already seen a string of defeats at policy levels.
Importantly, a post-censorship ban or a post-audit of media, starting with social media may also be interpreted as something big to come from the Modi government in the coming days which is akin to demonetization and GST.
CA Divesh Nath
LinkedIn: Divesh Nath