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Freedom of Expression in Community Media and on the Internet Understanding Connections, Finding Common Ground

by Prasad Krishna last modified Feb 03, 2012 11:00 AM
A meeting co-organised by the Internet Democracy Project (Delhi) and Maraa (Bangalore) with the support of the Community Radio Forum in New Delhi on 3 February 2012. Pranesh Prakash is participating in this event.

Access to FM radio and broadband Internet access have proliferated since the 90s. Since 2006, community radio has been licensed to community and educational initiatives. Today there are more than 150 community radio stations which are operational, reaching some of the most underserved communities in India. Further, Internet penetration is about 8-10%, reaching about 100 million people. Both these media are on the verge of a paradigm shift.

Due to ever-increasing convergence and the ubiquity of digital communication platforms and mobile telephony, community radio stations will be able to reach not just deeper but wider. The emergence of indigenous fonts and Internet on wireless mobile technologies will mean that the next few hundred million people will begin using the Internet. Both of these phenomena are positive developments signalling possibilities of greater democratisation of media and media for the democratisation of India at multiple levels. However, there are significant issues which threaten to
impede the free growth of these platforms - troubling as it is, the threats are related to barriers on freedom of expression.

While radio still faces a ban on the broadcast of news and current affairs, opaque spectrum allocation, the imposition of a government content code and pressure to self-regulate, the Internet on the other hand has seen tumultuous developments through 2011 and early this year as well. Both the government and the judiciary have shown scant respect for and confidence in their own people, choosing instead to regulate the free flow of information citing communal sensitivities, minority population, objectionable content, etc.

This meeting aims to bring together advocates and practitioners from both the community radio and the Internet communities, to discuss what restrictions there are on freedom of expression, through law and policy; what commonalities there are between the two platforms; and what the areas and mechanisms are through and in which these two groups can work together in the future to engage policy and legal frameworks so that people's constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression is upheld in letter and in spirit.

The meeting invites about 15 participants from both community radio and Internet circles, from across the country. The meeting will be held between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on 3 February 2012 and will take place at the UNESCO Office, B-5/29, Safdarjang Enclave, New Delhi 110029.


10.00-10.30 a.m. Welcome and Introductions
Anja Kovacs and Ram Bhat
10.30-11.15 a.m. Community Radio and Freedom of Expression
Sajan Venniyoor
Moderated by Ashish Sen
11.15-11.30 a.m.
Tea Break
11.30 a.m.-12.15 p.m. The Internet and Freedom of Expression
Anja Kovacs
Moderated by Ashish Sen
12.15-13.30 p.m. Freedom of Expression in Community Media and on the Internet:
Overlaps and Common Issues

Group Discussion, moderated by Ram Bhat
13.30-14.30 p.m. Lunch
14.30-15.15 p.m. Joint priorities for community media and Internet activists
Group Discussion, moderated by Siddharth Narrain
15.15-15.30 p.m. Tea Break
15.30-16.15 p.m. Taking it Forward – Plan of Action
Group Discussion, moderated by Anja Kovacs
16.15-16.45 p.m. Thanks and Wrap-up
Ram Bhat and Anja Kovacs

List of Participants

  1. Anja Kovacs – Internet Democracy Project
  2. Arti Jaiman – Gurgaon ki Awaaz and CRF
  3. Ashish Sen – AMARC Asia Pacific and CRF
  4. Debarun Dutta - Drishti
  5. Geeta Seshu – the Hoot
  6. Hemant Babu – Nomad India and CRF
  7. Mir Ubaid – the Hoot
  8. N Ramakrishna – Ideosync Media
  9. Parminder Jeet Singh – IT for Change
  10. Pranesh Prakash – Centre for Internet and Society
  11. Ram Bhat – Maraa
  12. Sajan Venniyoor - CRF
  13. Sapna Shahani - WAVE (Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment)
  14. Siddharth Narrain – Alternative Law Forum
  15. Srinivasan Ramani –

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