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India: Blogger silenced

Categories: India, Advocacy

Chyetanya Kunte [1] is an Indian blogger living in the Netherlands. On 27th of November, 2008 during the terror attacks in Mumbai [2] he wrote a blog post (now available through Google cache [3]) criticizing Indian private television channel New Delhi Television (NDTV [4]) and particularly their group editor Barkha Dutt's [5] coverage of the incident.

The post was deleted from Chyetanya's blog, and on 26th of January, 2009 he posted this apology confirming unconditional withdrawal [6] of the post. This has sparked anger and strong condemnations in the Indian blogosphere.

Gaurav Sabnis at Vantage point [7] predicts:

It does not take a PhD in reading between the lines to guess what happened. NDTV probably sent Kunte a legal notice, asking him to pull the post down, apologize, never write about them again, and pay an absurdly massive amount of money.

Retributions confirms [8] quoting Barkha Dutts's Facebook message [9] that Chyetanya Kunte was indeed served with a legal notice on 3rd of January. She apparently wrote:

Just because some random bloke can sit at a computer and make up stuff doesn't mean he or others like him need to be dignified with responding to their utter and total rubbish. rubbish is what it is. And as already mentioned. Mr. Kunte has been served a legal notice for libel by NDTV. That should give you some indication of where we and I stand. The freedom afforded by the Internet cannot be used to fling allegations at individuals or groups in the hope that they will then respond to things that aren't worthy of engagement.

Gaurav Mishra at Gauravonomics Blog [10] compiles a roundup of condemnations by Indian bloggers for silencing Chyetanya. He also reveals:

Chyetanya sent me an email on January 25th, requesting me to take down the link to his post in my roundup of reactions to media coverage of the 11/26 Mumbai terror attack [11]. I haven’t taken down the link and excerpt yet, but I have refrained from blogging about the issue so far out of concern for complicating Chyetanya’s and, perhaps, my own legal situation.

The fact is that Chyetanya wasn't the only one criticizing NDTV. According to Gaurav [10]:

Bloggers were scathing in their criticism of Barkha Dutt’s sensationalistic coverage [11] of the 11/26 Mumbai terror attack [12], accusing her of broadcasting sensitive information about the position of hostages and security troops, sensationalizing the news coverage, and being borderline hysterical, in general.

Nanopolitan tells NDTV in the post “congratulations NDTV [13]“:

The apology you extracted reminds us of re-education programs that totalitarian regimes impose on dissidents. Or of re-induction rituals in third rate gangster movies.

Gargi at POV [14] writes:

Amongst the institutions that has rapidly lost my trust, especially in the last two years, is the broadcast news media. Between the Prince episode, the Arushi Murder Case, running recorded footage with live bugs, with the 26/11 coverage – i have stopped watching TV news. I read magazines, i read newspapers and I read blogs. I do these because i have far more faith in the credibility of those who write – than the credibility of those who produce and package news on TV.

Updates of the Indian bloggers’ reactions can be found at Desipundit [15]. Blogbharti posts [16] an appeal:

We urge all bloggers to send us their views on this issue. And to protest NDTV’s highhanded efforts to curb our freedom of speech.