July 12, 1999
Dear Mr Mahajan,
It is good to see you taking note of some views expressed on your action to ban PTV and to have you air your response to criticisms (Why I banned Pak TV, IE, June 30). No one is questioning the legality of your decision to ban PTV, only its wisdom. What has been said by many eminent persons is that banning PTV may be interpreted as a knee-jerk reaction at this point of time. It does not give due credence to the maturity and patriotism of the Indian public to be able to see through the naked propaganda and manufactured lies being put across by Pakistan in its officially controlled medium, of which many leading intellectuals and ordinary people within Pakistan are also extremely critical.
PTV was not being beamed in a vacuum in India. Given the number of independent channels on air that are providing accurate information – besides the public broadcaster Doordarshan – to think that people would be so easily fooled by misinformation is to underestimate the intelligence of our people.What many leading media persons, political and social activists have suggested is that the Pakistani propaganda could have been more effectively exposed by a systematic presentation of counterfacts and discussion and dissection by Indians with public credibility.
Also, the question has been raised – and you have completely sidestepped this in your public response to the PTV banning issue – why and how a government that could move in a matter of days to assert its discretion for the public weal has remained totally indifferent to the steadily worsening and far more pernicious flood of obscenity (including pornography) beamed, both from outside and within India, which is corrupting mind-sets, especially of the young, and is linked to a dangerous escalation of crimes against women. Once again, censorship techniques have been brought into play only in regard to limited political matters.
It is now four months since a large cross-section of concerned women’s organisations and social activists, including fromyour own political party, drew your personal attention to the "growing proliferation of objectionable content flooding TV channels and now openly advertised for free availability of concentrated `adult’ packages to be viewed through mechanisms presently illegal in the country."
You are aware that the National Commission on Women is in Delhi High Court calling your ministry to ensure due regulatory measures to forestall prurient materials from becoming freely available. Citizens have appealed to you for your ministry to provide a categorical assurance in the courts that:
(i) adult encrypted channels and programmes are not permitted in the country; (ii) adult programming cannot be exhibited until and unless it has been duly screened and certified as approved for adult viewing by the Censor Board as per the Cinematography Act and that your Ministry will forthwith ensure adherence to the above; (iii) any violation of our Constitutional guarantees to protect moral decency and the laws restraining theexhibition of any material commodifying the human body and/or derogatory to women’s dignity will be dealt with most severely.
Despite many attempts by concerned citizens to seek a personal hearing on these matters, including by this writer, you have remained unavailable. Even the communications sent to you remain unacknowledged. To the contrary, the ministry’s attention to the whole matter in court has been so perfunctory.
The country is one in both sharing pride in the grit and spirit of our armed forces and grief at the human losses and suffering borne by those valiantly fighting for the territorial integrity of the country. What we are saying is that the best ways have to be found to effectively counter false propaganda and to rebuild an atmosphere in which these hostilities are contained. Vanishing PTV is merely a simplistic solution.
We would like you to spare some of your time and thoughts to think of those women and girls who have to deal with the consequences of the irresponsible libido-raisingdoses of explicit images spilling into our homes. The abuse of freedom of expression this shows is far more damaging than anything that has seized your mind’s attention so far. Perhaps, you will finally find time to give us a reply!
The writer is a media critic
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