Citizens as Censors : Understanding the Limits of Free Speech in India

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen

Abstract:

This thesis aims to provide an understanding of the phenomenon of citizen censorship in India and its implications for free speech. It is especially concerned with public protests where groups of citizens demand government action in order to ban or censor controversial material. These groups tend to invoke feelings of offense or hurt religious sentiments as a justification for restriction. The point of departure of this thesis is research on social movement outcomes and the history of Indian censorship. A quantitative approach is adopted, which includes data of protest events from 2010 to 2015. The author will demonstrate that restrictions on free speech coincide with protest events in three out of ten cases. A shorter case study of the controversy surrounding the film Vishwaroopam provides a concrete example of the dynamics of citizen censorship and aims to highlight some aspects that might have affected protest outcomes. Ultimately, the author concludes that protests are likely to be influential for restrictions on free speech, and that the role of the citizen as censor should not be ignored.

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