“They are going to kill you.” “Talk about cricket. Talk about sneakers.” “You cannot talk about Narendra Modi. You cannot talk about Priyanka Gandhi.” These are the advice given by well-wishing Indian community to Hassan Minhaj when he announces he is planning to do a show on Indian elections. At a particular scene when one of the community elders tells Minhaj, “You cannot talk about anything in the open”, Minhaj is seen asking “What about the internet?” And the response obviously is “NEVER ON INTERNET.”
Though the initial scene seems so dramatic, Minhaj but have actually portrayed the Indian insecurities. A recent survey released by Reuters Institute Report states that 55% of Indians who participated in the survey said that they are scared about expressing their political views on Internet as it could “get them into trouble with the authorities”. The survey was conducted among people who read English news in India.
The reports suggest that though Indian users engage with news efficiently, it is but “accompanied by high levels of concern about the possible consequences of expressing political views on the internet”. The various reasons that people gave for not expressing views on the Internet were- trouble with authorities, judgemental comments from friends, relatives and colleagues.
The Indian case in the Survey report is similar to that of the results shown by Brazil and Turkey. In India, within the last 7 years, at least 17 people were arrested for posting materials that are considered offensive or threatening to politicians. The “offended politicians” list includes many names including PM Modi, Adityanath, Mamta Banerjee and Manmohan Singh.
However, the survey was conducted only among the English speaking, urban population of India. The actual situation could even be worse. The report also suggests that the practice of reading news in highly associated to the politics one follow. People showed tendencies to subscribe to a particular channel that explicitly held their own political views.
As suggested by the survey, Facebook (52%) and WhatsApp (also 52%) are very widely used for news (and of course even more widely used for other purposes), and high numbers of respondents use multiple different social media and apps for news.