‘Connecting India’! That’s the tag-line of the government telecommunication company called Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). Lately, it seems to do a lot more than connecting India. It also seems to secretly and illegally disconnect India. From the evening of July 17 I have been receiving messages, even complaints, from regular readers of this blog that they haven’t been able to access MediaCrooks. It was initially surprising since I was able to access it and I had posted a fresh article early the next day on July 19. I thought it must be some temporary problems with the connection or the service providers of those readers.
Then the messages kept growing and on checking I found that all of these readers were using internet services provided by BSNL. On the evening of July 18 I put out the following message through a tweet stating options readers could use to access the MediaCrooks articles: (Please click and open tweet images on a separate tab and enlarge to read)
I chose not to assume BSNL had blocked MediaCrooks or that there was a Central govt order of any kind to ban this site since it was accessible to users through other Internet service providers in India. I have been able to access the site, review comments and post articles (including this one) without any problems. But it does appear that BSNL has blocked access to the site. I wish to state in no uncertain terms to BSNL or any govt authority that this site does not contain any content that breaks any law of the land, does not contain any pornographic material, it’s not a commentary on religion that can disturb peace and harmony or result in riots, it is not even political in nature.
The objective of the site is to critique and expose the Indian mainstream media. In that, it surely does include politics, politicians and other people and entities in the context of media and their reporting and coverage of issues. Does this site offend certain sections of people and entities? Yes, it probably does and delights in the consequence of its articles! It delights in criticising the media when they act in an indiscriminate manner, when they lie, when they distort facts. It offends media personalities for their glaring blunders and deliberate manipulation of facts. MediaCrooks delights in criticising politicians when they utter nonsense or appear to support injustice. This will continue and it will not stop.
I have not received any notification or information of any kind on whether BSNL has blocked the site and, if so, for what reason. Now that BSNL users have not been able to access the site for over 3 days it would be fair to assume that some govt official must have passed on a clandestine, unwritten and illegal order to BSNL to block the site. If the govt has done so and if BSNL has obliged them then both are in serious violation of the law and my rights to publish my views. I also presume there has been no advice to Google, which hosts this site, on any objections to the content on this site else I am sure I would have heard from them. Thus it seems quite obvious and fair to assume the illegal blockage by BSNL has been instigated by some govt quarters. They were probably unhappy over criticism of some official, minister or politician precious to the govt.
On July 20 I wrote the following email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to BSNL requesting an explanation of this blockage. I await a response:
I publish a site titled www.mediacrooks.com. Since the evening of July 18, 2012 I have been receiving complaints from readers through Twitter and by Email that those who were accessing the site through the Internet services of BSNL have not been able to access my site. I would request you to note the following points:
1. The complaints from readers through various sources have raised suspicion that BSNL has BLOCKED access to my site as a Censorship act and measure.
2. Please confirm if the blocking of my site is true and correct. In case access to my site has been blocked I have to state that I have no intimation from any government sources or your own organisation for the same. I wish to add that blocking access to my site is illegal and breaches the fundamental right of free speech and access to such content.
3. My site is essentially a critique of issues in the Mainstream Media and does not in any way break any law whatsoever.
I would request you to restore access to my website for users of BSNL's Internet service. In case you still continue to block access to the site as suspected by many readers please let me know on what grounds and for what reasons such access is blocked. A screenshot of complaints that were noticed on Twitter is also attached for your reference. This is being written without any prejudice to my legal rights.
While I wait for a response from BSNL I wish to assure readers that they can access content of MediaCrooks through other options in my tweet mentioned earlier. I also wish to state that if BSNL has indeed carried out the blockage then we must estimate what a dangerous tool it is in the hands of the govt and politicians. This is a good reason why govt must not be in control of any business, especially not a communication organisation. It is clearly a grave danger in a democracy. This is not an issue relating to a single blog site. This does bear a serious threat to every blogger and writer. Am I going to stop writing? Fat chance! I must mention though, that if I do not receive a satisfactory response from BSNL to my mail the issue won’t rest. As govt officials, politicians, media and ministers are so fond of quoting, I will use the same line that they do: “The issue will reach its logical conclusion and the law will take its own course”. In the meantime, I have a modest suggestion for BSNL. “Change your tag line, Change it to Dis-Connecting India”!