Even direct reportage of facts is being termed defamatory, says Nikhil Pahwa

A bid by a private institution to scrub clean the web of all critical opinion against it and a backdoor censorship facilitated by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) have stoked the rage of prominent commentators on Twitter and Facebook.

For the second day running on Sunday, the hashtag #IIPM was trending on Twitter across the Indian Twitterverse with several persons with good online traction keeping alive the content that the DoT, through a February 14 order, called for removal through Internet Service Providers.

While the web blockade, which, according to the DoT, was effected based on the directive of the Gwalior Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, managed to remove the URLs mentioned in the petitioner’s application, those fighting the censorship began a cat and mouse game online mirroring the content across various new web addresses and resources like Pastebin and Bitly, which offer cacheing of content and bookmarks.

Nikhil Pahwa of the Medianama website, which was the first to post the PDF document of the DoT calling for the blockade, said the DoT had effected the censorship without informing the content owners or even transparently declaring that the changes were called for. The website sourced the DoT order “unofficially.”

On Sunday evening, Shivam Vij of popular blog Kafila, posted: “Until Nikhil Pahwa of www.medianama.com informed me, I had no clue that India’s unjust and arbitrary Internet censorship regime had affected Kafila.”

He also mentioned that Arindam Chaudhuri of IIPM, whom he had met at a television show on Sunday afternoon, promised to unblock Kafila from the list and that he was not directly involved in the Gwalior Bench case, but it had been filed by one of IIPM’s “channel partners.”

PR spin

There was already some PR spin from IIPM over the breakout of the news on social networks.

Tweets from the official IIPM think tank - @ArindamIIPM - posted a response on Saturday, in which Arindam Chauduri, while stating the web blockade issue was sub judice, accused the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education of being corrupt and that IIPM was proud to have no affiliation with them.

Free and open software advocate Atul Chitnis, in an email interview with The Hindu, said IIPM was not just using a distant court to gag specific websites but was also trying to scare other commentators into silence.