Is FREEDOM A MYTH?

According to the Oxford dictionary, the word freedom means ‘The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.’ The articles 19, 20, 21A and 22 of the constitution of India contain the provisions of the right to freedom. As per article 19, the following six freedoms are guaranteed to every person in the country, the first being freedom of speech and expression followed by freedom to assemble, freedom to form unions or associations or cooperative societies, freedom to move freely, freedom to reside and settle and freedom practice any profession or to carry any business, occupation or trade. But are we really free? According to a survey done by debate.org, 64% people agreed with the statement “Is Individual freedom a myth in today’s society?”

Death threats, harassment, rape threats, mobs, have been in the news since a long time now. Speaking about the news, a study has found that 154 journalists were arrested, detained or interrogated between 2010 and 2020 in India. Out of which, 40% of these cases were reported in 2020 alone. The numbers get horrifying when it comes to physical assault. Around 198 attacks on journalists have been reported since 2014-2019 and over 30 journalists have died since 2010 where only three convictions have been made. A similar situation has been observed in Latin America and the Caribbean where 176 journalists were killed between 2014 and 2021. Is this world free to deliver uncut, raw and a hundred percent accurate news?

Another source of information besides the traditional media is ‘social media’. An average of 2.5 hours is spent daily on social networks and messaging by an individual. People use these platforms for sharing pictures, opinions, feelings, personal messages etc. On May 26, 2021 the government came up with new IT rules for social media giants like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook to comply. Under these rules, the online messaging services must make it mandatory to trace the identity of ‘first originator’ of the information. With this, the services will have to break its encryption policies and no data sent over these apps would technically be ‘private’. With this coming in force, no data can be termed as safe and protected as there is a possibility of it being stolen or attacked by the cyber hackers. Another rule that has been objected to is ‘voluntary verification’ of the user’s identity which is similar to biometric or physical identification that would be visible to other users. Here, this regimen would destroy the concept of anonymity on social media platforms. Would a person be free to share anything henceforth?

Besides social media, people engage themselves in watching movies as a recreational activity. As of 2019, fourteen million Indians went to movies on a daily basis. The Indian Cinema has never failed to be a source of entertainment mixed with emotions, knowledge, empowerment and a platform for expression. Until 2021 The makers of these movies were expected to send their movies to the Central Board of Film Certification where the movie would get its certificate to premier in the cinemas. With the proposal of new Cinematography Amendment Bill, the Central Board of Film Certification will no longer be the sole authority in the film censorship matters, the Centre will also have its say in it. In other words, now the Centre’s certification and revision power can dilute the creative freedom of not only those making the film but all stakeholders of such artwork alike. This amendment was highly condemned by the film fraternity; a letter with more than 3000 signatories was sent to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. “The government’s proposal to amend the Cinematograph Act is another blow to the film fraternity, and will potentially endanger freedom of expression and democratic dissent,” the letter read. Would a filmmaker be able to express his creativity henceforth?

These are just some of the many facts that I have stated. The idea of freedom is subjective, it differs from person to person. Here, I would like to bring back my first question for you to think, ‘Are we really free?’

Yogita Nathani

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