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AIB Roast: It's all about freedom of speech, say media veterans

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AIB Roast: It's all about freedom of speech, say media veterans

The AIB’s tongue-in-cheek humour has not gone down well with a number of people. A lot has been said on AIB Roast post January 28, after a group of stand-up comedians followed the knock-out pattern of roasting celebrities at an event in Mumbai. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also been filed in the Bombay high Court against AIB, alleging that its content was ‘unbearable for any cultured and reputed person of a civilised background’.

While many argue that the Indian Constitution allows citizens the ‘freedom of speech’, there are others who feel that a line needs to be drawn to ensure that content is not offensive to a person, religious or social community.

However, AIB warns viewers of the adult content of the celebrity roast video, before they click to watch it.

exchange4media talks to some senior journalists on the freedom of speech, the AIB Roast and if there should be an authority to monitor content.

“There should not be any Censor Board at all. We do not need any content to pass via a Censor Board. In most of the democracies, we don’t need it. The Censor Board should only classify the content. At the same point of time, there should be laws to check violators,” said Anant Nath, Editor, The Caravan.

Talking about the AIB performance, Nath said he had not watched the video but had read a lot about it. However, he added that people have a choice if they want to watch a video. “I will not subscribe content like this, but that doesn’t mean we need restrictions for such videos,” he said.

Nath further said, “We already have so many guidelines that need to be toned down rather than having new ones.”

Madhavan Narayanan, Associate Editor at Hindustan Times, said, “The laws don’t stop the freedom of speech and it is difficult to do that because web has no nationality. But at the same time, a case can be filed because technically it has been performed in Mumbai. It can be held up for defamation and obscenity, but things need to be revisited as the world has moved on and abusive words in movies are no longer a taboo.”

Stressing further on the freedom of speech, Narayanan said, “Freedom of speech is unlimited and it is difficult to police and pin-point it. If you see the performance as an adult point of view, nothing can be done about it. You know the purpose, you know the ethic. It is the simple free speech, and therefore, you can’t question it.”

Talking further on the freedom of speech, he said, “Personally, I feel a line is needed to be drawn somewhere.” However, he added, “I don’t think anyone can legislate it and you cannot ban such things. Celebrate your freedom. Raise a toast on Twitter! Freedom is like condoms – use but don’t litter! You have a right to offend, but we would like to know your soul. Your mind is very sharp, but where is your heart’s goal?”

Senior Journalist Vinod Kapri says the concept is subjective. “It is like the thinking of different people for a particular thing. Someone is okay with girls wearing jeans, but not okay with a skirt, while someone is fine with skirt and not jeans. We can’t bind censorship and freedom of speech,” he said.

He added, “In a political war, it is okay to say anything, but it’s wrong if something is said to the society in humour. It was on a digital platform and viewers were aware of the adult content. Even people who attended it were aware of what they were going to watch. Roast is not a new concept. It happens in other countries as well.”

Kapri added, “I don’t think there is a need of any guideline. The only solution is to change individually.”

Though the court is yet to take a decision, it has sent alarm bells ringing for all stand-up comedian artists. The AIB has apologised to the Christian community for any offence that may have been caused to its members as a result of the AIB Knock Out.


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