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Freedom goes hyperbole!

Not just freedom to write and report by media professionals, globally threat to live freely and practice one’s Dharma is under attack


“Freedom is the goal of the universe. Nor love nor hate nor pleasure nor pain nor death nor life nor religion nor irreligion: not this, not this, not this.”


This was one of the most comprehensive definitions to freedom provided by revered Swami Vivekananda, India’s greatest monk, Hindu philosopher in a letter to one Church sister Mary Hale on June 26, 1895.

Freedom to write, think, interpret and see life as such is the essence of human life. And, this freedom is all the more significant in the context of press globally that routinely is at the receiving end for having spoken the truth or exposed inhumanity.

From Syria, Russia, United States, United Kingdom to European geographies, freedom to responsibly write has been constantly under attack with no reprieve for reporters of media outlets, be it print, broadcasting corporations, radio or digital networks.

In the name of region, religion, caste, creed, sex and otherwise, violence in all shades and hues is perpetuated without reprieve. It happens more so in the trumped up liberal societies internationally.

Discussing freedom on international press freedom day becomes also pertinent as on this very day United Nations took upon itself 30 years back to protect freedom for media to report fearlessly on happenings across the globe.

Well, in these thirty years, globalization and corporatization of media that was hitherto a commitment and conviction to societies and communities has made discharging this responsibility all the more difficult. Cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics has given a new dimension to media that’s real time, hard to regulate and many a time sans responsibility.

Discussing freedom makes sense when it’s exercised with responsibility. Political establishments, security agencies and terror groups have many a time seen free media as biggest hindrance to achieving their ulterior goals.

For instance, Neither President Xi Jinping of China nor his Chinese Communist Party been a great votary of press freedom. Given a single party rule, the rigour of communist regimes made periodic attempts to even restrict human thinking, behaviour, families or even procreation. Same is the case with another military style communist regime led by President Kim Jong Un. These two are classic cases of turning respective communist parties into family enterprise or solo.

Even in the most celebrated liberal democracies, freedom to live on one’s terms is skewed. Otherwise, there’s no plausible explanation for hatred heaped on minority Hindus either in US, UK, Canada, Australia or elsewhere. Constantly being targeted either in Columbia, California or elsewhere like Leicester in UK does not guarantee any freedom to even live, practice one’s ‘Dharma’.

In countries run by religious fascism of extreme variety exemplified by Taliban in Afghanistan, military establishment in Pakistan, grooming gangs of UK and IS run Caliphate in Syria, threats to freedom is too grave to even discuss, decipher or interpret in saner terms. Gone are the days that hailed liberty, democracy and freedom centric slogans in these very countries. Constant threats to life, living spaces and eking out an earning honourably has become the basic issue in most of these ‘liberal minded’ societies that lecture the globe on freedom of every variety beginning with media to religion. A quick look in the mirror would reflect realities of life in these touted liberal democracies that time and again taken upon them to ostracise others on these very issues. 

Periodic reports dished out by USCIRF including latest speaks about non-availability of religious freedom in India. While credibility of this report or the team that trashes India needs to be called out, does this organization even recognize what’s happening in its own back yard?

Gun running and violence related crimes due to factors like skin colour, religious faith or even the physical build of an individual is something the ‘most liberal democratic’ leadership in US refuses to even recognize. As per a last week’s BBC report that quoted not for profit organization, the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 160 mass shootings in United States so far in 2023. This report also puts the figures for mass shootings at 600 in each of the three preceding years.

While freedom to live fearlessly is under threat, press and media freedom is a wee-bit complicated in both UK and US where lobbies, technology companies and access to information highway determine as to what messages are delivered to readers or narratives woven in conversations that are completely slanted and uni-focal.

Freedom to live and report is definitely under threat. Threat perceptions have undergone a sea change. There’s no way any group, community or Dharmic people that can live unhindered. This may have to be recognized by all stakeholders. A global consensus on achieving freedom on different planes must be achieved. Lip service to freedom is like lip syncing in music. It’s not real.

(author is Director & Chief Executive at non-partisan think tank, Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies based in New Delhi)

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