When Burning Voices could not find any takers for its documentary on harassment by security forces in the national or local media, it posted the same on the internet As the use of internet for free expression has grown, so have the attacks on the sites, says NINGLUN HANGHAL
THE HOOT, Thursday, Aug 05 12:27:46, 2010
With space in newspapers and magazines and time on TV channels at a premium due to the government news that is dumped on them and the advertisements that they require to sustain themselves, the internet is fast emerging as an alternative for those in far flung areas to voice their opinions. And with the growth of this medium attacks on freedom of expression have followed inevitably.
Burning Voices, A literary group of Manipuri youth in Delhi brought out a 12-minute documentary, The Face of Our Generation. This production tells the story of Naorem Prakash who was harassed by security forces in the aftermath of the Tehelka magazine's expose of the BT Road fake encounter on 23rd July 2009 in Imphal. At the screening of this documentary in Jawaharlal Nehru University on July 24, the youths said they could not get the national or local channels to broadcast it. As an alternative the documentary was uploaded on to www.e-pao.net, a Manipur news website and on Burning Voice's own site http://www.burningvoices.com/. The two popular website of Manipur, www.kanglaonline.com. and www.e-pao.net, not only update news but also provide easy access to news archives and background articles as well as important documents. Menu link “K special” of kanglaonline and “timeline” in e-pao.net provide useful links.
An additional advantage for Manipur's Zomi community is a bilingual website, www.zogam.com, that provides space for users and content in the local language as well as in English. Readership of these sites is quite sizeable as was indicated from statistics pertaining to one article on Zomi women in Bangalore that was featured on www.zogam.com and had over a 1000 hits and 44 responses. The recent article by Nandita Haksar, Constitutional Crisis in Manipur published by Mainstream Weekly, June 19, 2010 and reproduced in several north-east based websites, drew many responses on these sites.
While those using the internet have benefited from these sites, they have also drawn attacks from detractors. An offline announcement at www.kanglaonline.com said, “Important Note (Nov 12, 2007): Due to misuse of the photos in the KanglaOnline `Women of North East India' channel, KanglaOnline management has decided to shut down the website. While inconvenience caused to the users is regretted, KanglaOnline stands by its commitment to protect the photographer and the models against copyright violations and misuse of the photos.”
On July 9, 2010 the same website was offline with an announcement, “Dear User, KO is facing repeated online attacks and is under maintenance mode. Please visit again. Thanks, KO Team”. The comment spaces on these websites also contain several anonymous attacks while on rare occasions the persons who post the comments identify themselves.
Despite these infringements from detractors of free expression and misuse by few others, web based expression of opinions and dissemination of news has made a strong beginning in Manipur.