Evaluating the vitality of New Media, a panel of eminent experts has expressed concern over growing governmental onslaughts on the digital domain through subtle surveillance as well as its reckless misuse by irresponsible people to stifle democratic dissent and compromise individual freedom on social media.
“Democratic dissent is being suppressed in the Digital Age. New Media is no more an open platform to express your voice of dissent. This is solely because of hundreds of irresponsible people who make obscene reactions on the platform when we raise our opinion,” said noted lawyer and former MP Sebastian Paul. “There is no scope for a lone dissenter,” he stressed.
Paul made this observation while participating in a panel discussion on ‘Democratic Dissent in the Digital Age’, at the Kerala Media Academy, organised by the BM Anand Foundation, a collateral of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), on Friday.
Articulating their concern over the unbridled misuse of digital media, the panelists said that this phenomenon was severely impacting the freedom of expression and the tone and tenor of public discourse.
The panel discussion, moderated by C Gouridasan Nair, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu, was largely focused on the expression of democratic dissent and web-supported activism on social media.
Kriti Anand, daughter of the late artist Brij Mohan Anand and co-founder of the BM Anand Foundation, was also present at the discussion.
Social Media expert VK Adarsh noted that the increasing government censure of New Media could be viewed as a major threat against the free expression of dissent.
“Internet services to 15 districts in Haryana were blocked during the latest Jat agitation for reservations. There are other instances also. The government can easily peep into our social media accounts. The intensity of government surveillance has increased and it has compromised our freedom on digital platforms,” he added.
Speaking from the perspective of a tech-guru, Adarsh said ‘Diaspora Nodes’, a non-profit, user-owned and distributed social network, free from government control, could herald a future revolution on social media.
Referring to social media as a vital tool for widening the sphere of democratic participation, Flowers TV Editor, PP James drew attention to the public mobilisations in the countrywide Anna Hazare movement and the home-grown ‘Kiss of Love’ protest in Kerala.
“Fax machines were the vehicle to mobilise people during the Tiananmen Square uprising. Social media was the revolutionary tool during the ‘Arab Spring’. The effective use of New Media increased public participation in the Anna Hazare movement,” he observed.
He also expressed the hope that digital platforms would become a part of the mainstream media within 5-10 years.
On the occasion, Kriti Anand announced the institution of the BM Anand Award for Creativity, having a cash component of rupees one lakh, in memory of her late artist-father.
“The award recognises artistic excellence and the freedom of creative expression across the fields of visual arts, graphic design, film and music, which is very much in keeping with the diverse artistic practices of Brij Mohan Anand himself,” she said.
The award is open to graduate and post-graduate Indian students and self-taught, gifted artists under the age of 35.
Applications will be vetted by an eminent jury headed by Namita Gokhale, Director, Jaipur Literary Festival; Aman Nath, author and Chairman, Neemrana Hotels; Asad Lalji, author and Senior Vice President & CEO, Avid Learning, Mumbai and Smriti Kiran, Creative Director, Mumbai Film Festival
A select group of BM Anand’s works in diverse mediums is been showcased as a collateral to the KMB at the Greenix Village, Fort Kochi. There are, in all, 10 scratchboards, 10 scratchboard sketches, three sets of 13 drawings, one ink and watercolour on paper and a single oil on canvas.
Shruthi Issac, the curator of the exhibition, and Aditi Ana
nd, co-author of the book, Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand, based on the life and work of the late artist, were also present at the occasion.