Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blogs in India, including this blog are blocked, still here I am, blogging!

I find that the Indian authorities have blocked my blog, and the blogs of several bloggers on blogspot.com. The rationale for the move is that terrorists are operating their information networks through blogs. Come on, be real, and understand the technology of blogs and blogging. The onus is on the government to find out the offending blogs run by terrorists and block them selectively, not ban blogs per se.

However the government has put a blanket ban on all bloggers and their blogs across India. For the entire day, yesterday, I was going through fits of trembling and withdrawal symptoms, not knowing what had become of my lovingly nurtured literary blog and the various features like “Johnwriter’s Literary Show,” links to various discussion, links to blogs of fellow writers, etc., on which I have spent hours.

This move by the government is similar to what China has done. Chinese authorities have blocked all forms of blogs and blogging is not encouraged, which is understandable for a repressive regime that doesn’t guarantee freedom of expression. Remember Tianamen? Which makes me wonder if India is a democracy in the first place, where citizens are assured of their right to freedom of expression.

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Dear Hon. Prime Minister Manmohanji,

I am writing this mail to test whether you are techno-savvy considering that you have websites, email, and e-governance put up, so as to disseminate information. I want to check if the government intends to benefit the public with these expenses and if it is committed to the mission of bringing e-governance to the people.

After the recent Bombay blasts, there was confusion all around. A few blogs (web logs, also called grassroot citizen’s journalism) did great service to the public by putting up telephone numbers of the authorities to be contacted, information about aid to be reached, blood to be donated, names of the injured and dead, etc. The name of one such blog is http://mumbaihelp.blogspot.com, which gave information like the lists of injured and dead even before the newspapers and televisions could do so. This is because disseminating such information (through a blog) is very easy and the information is online within seconds.

For all this free service run by the public-spirited citizens what reward did they get? The government blocked all blogs on www.blogspot.com (this is a free platform for bloggers owned by Google) on the pretext that extremists were coordinating activities through such blogs.

The stupidity of this move is evident from the fact that though this popular means of building public opinion has been muzzled (this is a popular way of promoting, art, literature, good writing, etc. and there are celebrity bloggers who have tremendous influence over followers of their areas of excellence) anyone can easily write on their blogs using alternative means and even read what is written using alternative means of accessing these blogs.

I am sending a copy of this email to the minister for IT requesting him to give instructions to authorities concerned to withdraw this draconian rule immediately and allow citizens to exercise their right to free speech which is guaranteed by the constitution.

I would request an immediate acknowledgement to this email failing which I, as a citizen, would assume that the government isn’t serious about its mission of e-governance.

Regards

John P Matthew

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