Bhubaneswar, May 3: Both Union government and State Governments should ensure the freedom of expression on internet is maintained and they should not introduce any new law to gag the freedom of expression after Supreme Court recently upholding the same in its historic judgment. On the occasion of state level Seminar – Digital Odisha: Challenges & Opportunities jointly organized by Jananta Vikas Manch (JVM) and Civil Society Forum on Human Rights (CSFHR) here on Friday (May 1, 2015, Ms Namrata Chadha, ex-member, Odisha Women Commission has released JVM’s Draft paper on the – Road Map to Make A Digital Odisha. She said, “The freedom of speech should be absolute and it should not be compromised at any cost.” There are stringent laws in place to deal with cyber crime and hence the internet freedom should not be truncated in the name of checking cyber crime, she said.
While giving the details on the paper, Mr Sai Prasan, Founder Member & Digital Media Strategist said that the media reports suggest that Narendra Modi government is planning to come out with a set of rules to monitor the Freedom of Expression on Internet. “The digital media is a people’s media which is controlled and run by them. Any move to impose restriction on the use of digital media will go against the interest of the people”, he said.
Howeve, Mr Sai Prasan said, “The Freedom of Expression should not be considered a license to bully girls and women on digital media. The Government should book the offenders and take immediate and stern action against them”.
Digital Media should not be just confined to Elite of the state, but this facility should be available to all including workers, farmers and others. “We need to scrutinize the role and contribution of Odisha’s IT ministry along with Odisha’s Computer Application Centre (OCAC) in the development of Digital Media in Odisha”, he said.
Mr Sai Prasan said the electricity network in the state is very poor and internet facility is weakest in Odisha compared to other states. “The Naveen government should address these two issues immediately on the war footing,” he said. Commenting on the freedom of expression on Internet, Mr Dhirendra Panda, Convenor, CSFHR said, “we welcome the order of recent supreme court order to strike down of Sec 66A of IT Act”. And, he urged similar other provision in different acts should be repealed. “In no case, the neutrality of internet is compromised with private interests. This is a space where each human being can share experiences, receive information shared by others without any gate keepers,” he said.
However, the senior journalist Mr Sandeep Sahu had differed from his earlier speakers. “Unrestrained freedom of expresss in India may lead to riots on the streets because of various reasons as Indian case is different than the US and developed societies”, he said.
Appreciating the initiative of JVM to make Digital Odisha, Mr Prashant Mohanty, Director, Nirman said that the state should be digital as it will connect the rural areas with the urban Odisha. It will help in development of the rural areas of Odisha, he said.
A number of prominent personalities including Mr Bhavani Pani, Mentor to Internet enterprenuers, Mr Sudarsan Das, Social Activist, Ms Rutuparna Mohanty, Advocate & Social Worker, , Mr Baidyanath Mishra, Editor, Koshal Horizon, Ms Surma Mishra, Editor, Paschimanchal, Ms Soumita Chhatterjee, Mr Manoj Jena, chairperson, Human Rights Front (HRF) and Mr Madhusudan Das, a social worker actively participated in this debate.
The technical session in the Seminar on Digital Odisha was very informative and educative. Mr Pabitra Martha, Social Media Expert demonstrated how Google Plus and Hangout along with Skype can be used effectively. Among others, Mr Chirag Patadia, Management Professional, Mr Bimal Pradad, Social Activist, Mr Hassan Mujtaba, Management Student, Ms Sradha Mohapatra, and Ms Sweta Mishra, both engineering student and Mr Sudarshan Chhotaray, Senior Journalist also presented their thematic papers which enlightened all. Mr Baidyanath Mishra chaired the session. The Seminar was supported by Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan (SVA) and Nirman, the two civil society organizations.