Spotlight on the freedom of expression

Exploring Issues

Spotlight on the freedom of expression

Freedom Song’, a documentary directed by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Subi Chaturvedi, was recently screened at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements to a group of over 30 people who were genuinely interested in the film’s subject of freedom of expression.

The 2012 film, produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust, explored various facets of the broad subject, focussing on the views of a cross-section of Indians from different walks of life — lawyers, artists, journalists, politicians, policy makers, social activists and ordinary individuals.

Looking at specific case studies of the recent past, the 52-minute film touched upon a variety of issues in a contemporary Indian context — maintenance of public order, national security, libel, defamation, freedom of press, religious intolerance, intellectual property rights, censorship.  Some of the case studies were on Salman Rushdie not being able to attend the ‘Jaipur Literature Festival’, the banning of books by Taslima Nasrin, M F Hussain being sent to exile for his ‘offensive’ art, the chopping of the hand of professor of Malayalam T J Joseph in Ernakulam, Kerala and many others. It went on to portray Indians as suddenly having become intolerant to dissent, making it a constant grey area being addressed in the film.

Sections of the documentary also looked at the legal aspect of the freedom, detailing what Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India stands for and questioning who gets to decide the ‘reasonable restrictions’ mentioned in Article 19 (2).

Looking at the modern-day situation in India, where protests are becoming a common sight as are arrests of anyone speaking up against the government, it proved to be a thought-provoking film, even though no solutions as such were brought to the fore. “There was nothing new that the film provided on the issues at hand. But it presented them in a compact way, making one think in a particular manner. It raised a lot of debateable questions in my mind,” shares Jayaram, who attended the screening.

Following the screening was an equally gripping, charged-up question and answer session with one of the directors, Paranjoy, which saw some interesting aspects on the issue of freedom of expression being delved into.

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