The discussion began with Major General Nilendra Kumar addressing gathering and speaking about the recent happenings in Paris, the Right To Life and the Freedom of Speech (Articles 19 and 21). He stressed upon how essential these rights are and the profound importance of Freedom Of Speech and Expression, which includes the right to individual thinking. Dr. Chauhan described the shooting in Paris as a “great blow to the media persons.”
Then Mr. Sebastian Farcis, South Asia Correspondent for Radio France International, took the stage and asked for a few seconds of silence with respect to terror threats faced by numerous countries on a regular basis. He went on to talk about secularism and the history of secularism in France (1905, Separation Of Religion and State). He explained how Charlie Hebdo was not Islamophobic, and said the magazine was not violent nor was it full of hatred. He called Charlie Hebdo the spirit of enlightenment. He compared it to attacking a figurehead of a religion, like the Pope. He spoke about how Charlie Hebdo could have been taken to court (racism, libel etc.) as numerous times before, instead of attacking the magazine. Mr. Farcis explained the Media Laws in France and the actions taken against journalists in case of libel etc. in great detail. He concluded by saying that after this attack, the magazine will have 60,000 copies of its next issue shipped to over 20 countries.
The next speaker was, Mr. Madhav Chaturvedi, Senior Journalist, Press Trust Of India. He addressed the topic from the point of view of Indian media, he stated that more often than not, Indian Media is faced with the issue of Freedom Of Speech vs. freedom of Religion. It is the same case with French. He states that the public needs to have courage to face the whole truth and not get swayed by emotion, to be able to judge the situation in a fair manner, which is near impossible in a country as diverse as ours. He emphasized on how the Quran states that all those following Islamic religion are not allowed to draw the prophet, however people of other religions are not bound by any such belief and so, Charlie Hebdo was well within his rights to publish their cartoons. According to Mr. Chaturvedi, the aggression towards Charlie Hebdo stems from irrational urge to protect your religion and its beliefs. Being a journalist, he said he puts his write to freedom of speech above everything else, and he concluded by saying “Till the freedom of right exists, I shall write.”
The last speaker was Prof (Dr.) Ashok Kantroo, former Professor, Amity Law School, and member of the BCI. He talked about people making assessments of situations without getting into the reasons and legal matters of the situation. He stated that in his opinion, banning a literary working is like banning the freedom of speech and expression in a way. He talked about Right To Information, which is in a way also lost when a literary piece is banned from publication. He says journalists are no longer crosschecking facts and thereby, media ethics are slowly fading. We need to be able to balance the provision of the law, its enactment and actions which follow. According to him, the Charlie Hebdo attack is not an act of terror but of anger due to the feeling that someone was threatening a particular religion.
The discussion ended with an interactive question answer round with the audience, the audience put up rather impressive questions and the speakers answered all queries with great enthusiasm.