Sukumar Muralidharan, Program Manager at International Federation of Journalists, spoke on 14th of April 2012 at the Pul-e-Jawan India forum, held at India International Centre, New Delhi, which brought together citizen journalists, senior journalists, alternative media practitioners and representatives of cultural organizations promoting peace in diversity and conflict situations.
Muralidharan initiated the discussion on “Freedom of Expression & Activism – How active citizens are using creative freedom to promote causes and crossing the boundaries of traditionally available media avenues”. He observed that humans are the most orthodox and limitarian thinkers of the society. He spoke about the positive liberties and negative liberties of the society – the former particularly entails what we want do and what we choose, doesn’t matter if it causes injury or insult to the other side; whereas the negative liberty is about engagement with other individuals and members of society which leads to the question of encroachment of rights of others. He maintained that the right to offend is not inherent.
Citing the example of MF Hussain, he raised that right to offend is not a part of it, but it is necessary to establish the intent of offending when something is wrong. He also shared about the issue between modernity and tradition. Being responsible adults we have the right to take choices against the traditions and he highlighted cases like the ban on the book by Salman Rushdie and others. He concluded by putting forth a question that how far are we going to deal with this challenge; traditions are not dead but they are living organisms or entities and these traditions are being challenged by modernity; these are affecting the tribal communities in a large manner, but do they have the right to speak-up against this so called ‘modernization’ projects including arrival of mining companies.