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Stories form the moral high ground...

Film censors investigated by the Indian government over corruption

Link Here30th September 2023
India's ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) has ordered an inquiry after Tamil actor-producer Vishal Krishna Reddy declared on social media that he had to pay a sum of Rupee 6.5 lakh to Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) members in Mumbai to get his film cleared. The film, titled Mark Antony (Hindi), was released on September 28. I&B ministry orders inquiry after Tamil actor releases video of bribe-taking at CBFC I&B ministry orders inquiry after Tamil actor releases video of bribe-taking at CBFC

Reddy explaied: We had applied online to CBFC Mumbai , he said. Due to technical issues, we got delayed. On Monday, when my team members visited the CBFC office, they were asked to pay Rupee 6.5 lakh-- Rupee 3 lakh for watching the film and Rupee 3.5 lakh to give a certificate on time. TWe had no option but to pay up, as much was at stake.

The actor said his team transferred the money to two bank accounts. I am not showing a porn or adult film, he said. I am showing a film that has already been certified in the South in all four languages. So I don't know how they have the guts to ask for money so openly.

A statement by the I&B ministry on Friday afternoon claimed that the government had zero tolerance for corruption and stringent action would be taken against anyone found involved in the episode.



Safe spaces...

A court in the Indian state of Kerala confirms that watching porn in private is perfectly legal in the state

Link Here12th September 2023
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn
The Kerala High Court has recently passed a significant judgment declaring that watching pornography in private without sharing or exhibiting it to others is not an offence under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which pertains to the sale, distribution, and display of obscene material.

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan, while delivering the judgment in the case of Aneesh v State of Kerala, asserted that an individual's private choice to view explicit content in their personal space should not be subject to legal interference, as it would violate their right to privacy.

This ruling clarifies that watching explicit content privately, whether in the form of photos or videos on a mobile device, does not fall within the purview of Section 292 IPC. The court made it clear that this provision only applies when someone attempts to circulate, distribute, or publicly exhibit such material.

In a specific case where an individual was charged under Section 292 for watching explicit videos on his mobile phone in a public place, the court quashed the case, emphasizing the necessity of concrete evidence to establish the offense.



The destroyers of words...

Indian film censors cut Oppenheimer

Link Here28th July 2023
Oppenheimer is a 2023 UK/US historical biography by Christopher Nolan
Starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon BBFC link 2020 IMDb

The story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atomic bomb.

India's film censors have made cuts to a nude scene in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer.

Florence Pugh's naked body and breasts have been blacked out with a CGI mess supposed to indicate a black slip.

Pugh plays Oppenheimer's girlfriend Jean Tatlock, to whom Oppenheimer briefly returns for an assignation during his later marriage. She functions in part as a device to introduce the audience to Oppenheimer's interest in Hindu mythology -- and in ancient Sanskrit texts such as the Bhagavad Gita , which form the foundations of Hindu religious narrative.

At one point during their love--making -- mid-huff, mid-puff -- Pugh-as-Tatlock rises from Oppenheimer's body to trawl his bookshelf, picks up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and clambers back onto her lover's midsection as she opens it and begins to read aloud. Thus the film introduces a line which is now core to Oppenheimer's personal legend: Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

There were calls from religious groups to remove the references to hindu mythology. Uday Mahurkar is one of India's two information commissioners. He condemned the sex scene as waging a war on the Hindu community. If Nolan did not remove the scene, he insisted, it would constitute a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation.



India's war against a BBC documentary on Modi...

The government tried to suppress the documentary in India

Link Here23rd February 2023
Full story: TV Censorship in India...India considers the regulation of TV for adults

On the morning of February 14, 2023, approximately two dozen officials from India's Income Tax Department made their way into the India office of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) located in the capital city of New Delhi to start an "income tax survey" of the organization. According to Newslaundry , a media watchdog in India, roughly 100 employees from the organization who were present in the building at the time were asked to submit their phones and remain on the premises during the raid. A similar "survey" also started at the BBC office in Mumbai. The search lasted for three days and was concluded on the evening of February 16, 2023.

For those familiar with the socio-political circumstances in India, the news on Tuesday came as no surprise since it followed a pattern that has become extremely common in the country. BBC, the national broadcaster of the United Kingdom, had been the topic of public conversation and news coverage for the past month, the reason being its explosive documentary on the Gujarat riots of 2002 .

In January 2023, the BBC released a two-part documentary titled " India: The Modi Question ," which aimed to highlight the rising violence against the Muslim minority population in India under the leadership of its current Prime Minister Narendra Modi . The first part of the series, released on January 17, focused on the horrific Gujarat riots of 2002. The segment exposed the significant involvement of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state of Gujarat in the violent attacks against the Muslim minority population during that period.

The information the documentary shared was nothing new and has existed in the form of publicly available written records, documentation and reportage for the last two decades. During a rally in November 2022, Amit Shah, a prominent leader of the BJP and the Minister of Home Affairs, acknowledged the Gujarat riots in which a large number of people, primarily Muslims, lost their lives. Shah proclaimed that " they were taught a lesson ."

Blocking the documentary in India

Yet the Indian government's reaction to the documentary was instant, dismissing it as a propaganda piece . The documentary was made available only in the UK through BBC's online streaming service BBC iPlayer; however, it was uploaded to multiple YouTube channels by individuals and extensively shared on various social media platforms. The government invoked emergency laws to completely prohibit access to the documentary on the web for viewers in India. Kanchan Gupta, the senior adviser at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting mentioned in a tweet on January 2023 that a number of YouTube videos containing the first episode of the BBC documentary and over fifty tweets with links to the YouTube videos were ordered to be taken down .

On January 24, the BBC aired the second part of the documentary, which examined the performance of the Modi government following its re-election in 2019, and it was not subjected to any censorship orders.

The decision by Twitter to remove the tweets and the lack of support from Western democracies in defence of the BBC's documentary, which the organization claimed was " rigorously researched ," sparked widespread debate.

Cracking down on public screenings

Despite the Modi government's desperate attempts to suppress the documentary and prevent it from being viewed online, student groups in prestigious universities across India conducted public screenings to demonstrate their dissent against the oppressive government.

However, the government responded with severe measures against these student groups. Students who screened or watched the documentary were suspended by colleges , while supporters of the BJP and state-led groups held protests outside universities, even going so far as to threaten the students with physical violence and murder for screening the documentary.

In addition, BJP leaders labelled the BBC as corrupt and accused them of having ulterior motives in trying to "defame" India's reputation. They denounced the documentary as propaganda and condemned it as an expression of a colonial mindset . These criticisms were also used to justify the ban on the documentary.

The raids follow a pattern

Considering this sequence of events, the recent raid on the BBC seems to be retaliatory action , aimed at teaching the organization a lesson and hindering its operations in India, while citing other reasons. It is possible to arrive at this inference since the BJP has previously employed state agencies such as the IT (Income Tax) Department and ED (Enforcement Directorate), which investigates financial crimes, to target think tanks, NGOs and media outlets that have dared to criticize the government led by Narendra Modi.

For instance, on September 7, 2022, the IT Department conducted raids in the offices of Oxfam India, Centre for Policy Research (one of the most prominent think tanks in India) and Independent And Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF), which funds several media outlets like The Wire , The Caravan , The Print , all of which have been critical of the BJP. The investigations were aimed at scrutinizing alleged violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA), a law that regulates foreign funding in India.

Since coming into power, the BJP has tightened FCRA regulations , requiring more detailed reporting and scrutiny of civil society organizations that receive foreign funding in India. The government has also denied the renewal of FCRA licenses for hundreds of NGOs, alleging their involvement in " anti-national activity ."

In July 2021, the IT Department conducted a raid on Dainik Bhaskar, a prominent Hindi-language newspaper in India, over allegations of tax evasion. Opposition leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted that the newspaper was targeted because:

Through its reporting Dainik Bhaskar has exposed the Modi regime's monumental mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now paying the price.

An Undeclared Emergency as Arun Shourie has said -- this is a Modified Emergency.

-- Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) July 22, 2021

In February 2021, The offices of independent media house Newsclick in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, along with residences of its senior management were raided by the ED, which accused the organization of money laundering. Newsclick had previously been critical of the BJP-led central government in its reporting and extensively covered the Farmer's Protests that shook the nation.

The India office of international human rights organization Amnesty International faced raids by the ED in 2018 and 2019, which accused the organization of violating the FCRA act. Amnesty's bank accounts were subsequently frozen, leading to the organization's cessation of operations in India in September 2020. Amnesty accused the Indian government of engaging in a witch hunt due to the organization's work criticizing the government.

It is noteworthy that media houses or NGOs with close ties to the BJP or those known to report positively about the party have not been subjected to similar raids or searches, regardless of any allegations made against them.

Groups advocating for human rights are warning about the alarming decline in human rights and media freedom in India. They argue that state agencies are being used as weapons to suppress all forms of dissent and criticism of the government in the country. As a result, the cost of being an independent journalist in India has become very high.

In order to avoid facing similar retaliatory measures, many mainstream media channels in India have resorted to becoming mouthpieces of the government, sharing nothing beyond propaganda, thus making it harder for the public to access unbiased and critical information.

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