This is how the story goes. Once upon a time, there was a little website that could, called Mediaah!, which was one of the very, very few Indian media watchdog sites/ blogs around. It had two lives; the first time around, Mediaah’s owner, Pradyuman Maheshwari, had to pull the plug on it because of extraneous factors. But Mediaah! came back, and we duly rejoiced, and flocked to it in the mornings for gossip, and cheered every time it offered the little guy’s point of view vis-a-vis the mainstream, though of course we hit Alt + Tab PDQ if our bosses were watching. Now one of the papers Mediaah! routinely went after is a Very Big Indian Daily whose name we are all so scared to speak that we might just hint it rhymes with this.
There are several reasons Mediaah! took on the Awfully Scary Paper, including some of the issues discussed in this book.
But then the Awfully Scary Paper got to hear about Mediaah! or possibly it hires minions to surf the Net for criticism in a paranoid sort of way. We have no idea; all the journalists we know who work at the ToI are sweeties, oddly enough, but they follow Fight Club rules, the first rule being, you do not bite the hand of ASPs that feed you by talking about them.
So it sent Mediaah! a dry letter beginning with “Whereas” and containing terms such as “the party of the first part” and “hereinafter” and suchlike.
Mediaah! had three choices, and Pradyuman lists them here:
“This is to inform all our readers that Mediaah! has chosen to cease publication. I received a legal notice from the esteemed lawyers retained by a leading Indian media group who asked me to delete 19 posts from the Mediaah! weblog and also refrain from writing anything similar and defamatory.
There were three options available to me:
1. Delete the 19 posts, and get on with life
2. Don’t delete them, ignore the notice, and go on as if nothing happened
3. Don’t delete the posts, just delete the blog (or ALL that has been published earlir)
I have chosen the third. I have not deleted the 19 posts. I have not apologised for what has been written.”
Now as far as ASPs are concerned, that’s where the story’s supposed to end. You hiss, you show your fangs, and it’s The End. They know that Mediaah! doesn’t have a hope in hell of fighting the case; even if Pradyuman can pull in legal muscle and cover his costs, he’ll end up in court–and Mediaah! will end up in limbo–for eons while their lordships debate whether freedom of speech extends to blogs. They also know that while online petitions like this one are a good idea, the CEO ain’t going to be moved an inch. Even the nineteen posts that they objected to have been removed from the site, as have the archives. As far as the ASP is concerned, game’s over.
Or maybe not. (And yes, if you’re interested in free speech issues, I do suggest you click on all three links.)