2015 proved a grim year for free speech in India

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah
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So, all those complaining about rising "intolerance" in the country are not totally wrong.

A recent report--Free speech in India, 2015--released by The Hoot, a media watchdog, states last year proved a grim year for free speech in India.

MM Kalburgi

"Eight deaths, 30 attacks, 48 cases of defamation, 14 of sedition-it has been a grim year for free speech in India," says the report.

"2015 was a hugely eventful year for free speech in India. There were legal, political and technological developments that set the tone for these issues to be debated all year round.

And journalists were at their most vulnerable, with deaths, attacks, threats, sedition and defamation cases against them at an all-time high," adds the report.

Read the full report here

Every year, The Hoot releases a report on the state of media freedom and free speech in the country.

"Each year we produce a report on the state of media freedom and free speech based on data we collect from published sources all year round.

This year's report is bigger than usual because so much happened. Sharing it with you and do share with people you think might be interested," writes Sevanti Ninan, Editor, The Hoot, in an e-mail sharing the report with her colleagues in the media industry.

Amma of defamation

The report cites how Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and her government have muzzled the media by filing a large number of criminal defamation cases against a range of magazines and individuals.

"In December 2015 the Telegraph reported that the Jayalalithaa government has filed a total of 190 defamation cases during its tenure," states the survey.

Does I&B Ministry works as Modi's image manager?

The study conducted by The Hoot criticises the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for substituting as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's image manager.

Protest Against Dadri and Hampipur Lynching

"The I& B ministry under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has become an image manager for its leaders and a censor rather than a provider of information. Its brief now is to safeguard the PM's image," it says.

Sanskari Censor Board chief and his scissor

The Hoot says why the filmmaker-turned-chief of Central Board of Film Certification Pahlaj Nihalani proved bad for the film industry and its creative freedom.

"Pahlaj Nihalani remained in news all year round. The body he headed censored some 21 films in the course of the year, one of which came in for 218 cuts," the report says.

Chhattisgarh Government versus journalists

The Chhattisgarh government jailed two journalists and presided over the state harassment of journalists in the Bastar region, which led them to hold a protest in Jagdalpur at the end of the year, writes The Hoot.

Free Speech calendar and its depressing affair

The report also finds that every month of 2015 saw several major incidents where free speech and its upholders both came under attack.

The year started with a sad note when noted Tamil writer Perumal Murugan announced his ‘death' as a writer on Facebook.

He took the decision after the writer was harassed by caste-based and Hindutva groups for his novel Madhorubhagan.

In Karnataka, former Vice-Chancellor of Hampi University, rationalist and well-known Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead in his residence in August.

In October, noted authors and filmmakers returned their awards to protest against rising intolerance in the wake of killing of Professor Kalburgi and the Dadri lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq.

The report ended with a detail account of developments in the areas of online and mobile world.

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