Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cartoonist's Arrest Sparks Free Speech Debate

India is also becoming a joke. Twenty-five-year-old Aseem Trivedi (above photo), a freelance cartoonist was arrested by Mumbai police on Sunday after a city lawyer filed a complaint against him in December 2011. He has been charged under the sedition law, for sending offensive messages under the Information Technology Act and under the law for Prevention of Insults to National Honour. The complainant took umbrage at Trivedi's anti-corruption cartoons, especially one that re-interpreted the Ashok Chakra national emblem – wolves replaced the three lions to show ravenous corruption. Trivedi has said, "If telling the truth makes me a traitor then I am one."

Image credit:, published September 10, 2012.

An avalanche of biting criticism at home and abroad erupted amidst accusations that the Indian government is increasingly intolerant of dissent.

“We are very unhappy about the arrest as he has not committed any crime, he has just exercised his freedom of expression through his cartoons,” VG Nathan, head of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists argued.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also echoed calls for Trivedi to be freed in a case that has sparked widespread debate about freedom of expression in India.
"Criminalising Aseem Trivedi's efforts to highlight the serious problem of corruption is a perverse exercise of power and runs completely counter to India's democratic principles," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia programme coordinator.

What they did to Trivedi only serves to put the harsh spotlight on India. Governments forget that their citizens have the right to express themselves. But the biggest irony is that the world’s largest democracy is charging a cartoonist for sedition for his bold call to action against corruption!

Anyway, the authorities did come to their senses and yesterday, Trivedi was let out of the Arthur Road jail here in Mumbai. Soon after, he declared: "This fight, my fight, does not end here. We will continue to fight this battle till the sedition charges under Section 124A (of the Indian Penal Code) are dropped".

Perhaps there is a lesson here for us too.

The Sunway Education Group (SEG) declared yesterday Passion Day – although the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ were not entirely clear. Sure there were banners and posters promoting Passion Day as a celebration of Energy, Enthusiasm and Excellence but really, what do these 3 words mean exactly? I say, let’s be S-T-U-P-I-D. Be specific, be transparent, be unambiguous, be precise, be indubitable, be definite.

Asking SEG people (staff and students) to be dressed in a Sunway T-shirt just so they can stand a chance to win 125 lucky draw prizes is really lame! We should wear Sunway attire because we are proud to be a part of Sunway, not because you dangle freebies! And where is this demonstration of “Passion”? I only witnessed my colleague, Derek Ong and his Dance Club putting on a ten-minute performance that could best be described as "awesome"! The dancers not only move muscle and sinew to express the swinging rhythms of dance music but that the kinetic energy that was showcased was a real turn-on! A great show that amply describes “passion”! Check out the photos below:

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