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Christians oppose internet guidelines
Regulations over what can be posted online 'could be used to persecute religious and ethnic minorities'
- Rita Joseph, New Delhi
- May 16, 2011
Under the new rules websites must tell users not to publish any posts that are blasphemous, incite hatred, are ethnically objectionable, infringe patents, threaten India's unity or public order.
The government will be able to block any website or remove any āobjectionableā content within 36 hours without explanation, said Nikhil Pahwa, editor of MediaNama, an electronic media website.
Department of Information Technology officials say that, with internet usage growing, there needs to be monitoring and regulation.
But both the Church and the internet industry are opposed to the new regime, albeit for different reasons. The industry says it will add to its financial burden while the Church is concerned the guidelines might be misused.
Father Jude Botelho, director of the National Institute of Social Communications Research and Training says the guidelines areĀ too generic and open to interpretation.
It could be a tool to ātargetā minorities or anyone who does not toe the government line, he said.
āThe medicine should not worsen the sickness,ā said Father George Plathottam, the Catholic bishopsā social communications secretary.
Hindu fundamentalists can easily claim Christian literature is meant for conversion and have it removed, the priest said.
Father Botelho agrees the guidelinesĀ can easily be manipulated to suit vested interests.
āWe have examples of this in some countries where minorities are harassed and threatened with imprisonment for so-called blasphemy.ā
The new rules definitely have potential for abuse, said Pushkar Raj, general secretary of the Peopleās Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
He cites a recent biography by American author, Joseph Lelyveld, on Mahatma Gandhi which was banned in Gujarat because of passages describing the Father of the Nationās relationship with another man.
Sure some Gandhians might be upset, but does it call for a ban on the book. Where is freedom of expression? Raj asked.
āThe PUCL is exploring the possibility of challenging the constitutionality of the new rules.ā
Ban on book āgags freedom of speechā