Earlier, this month The Economic Times had reported that the representatives of the right-winged Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) have recently held meetings with officials of some online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. It reported that the object of these meetings was to restrict ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ content to be aired on these platforms. It was reported that the meetings had been organised for RSS to request and urge these platforms to only show content on their platforms which “represents real Indian culture and ethos.” It also reported the RSS through these meetings have expressed that they wanted to restrict content “critical” of the Indian standpoint on Kashmir or defamatory to Hindu symbols and the Indian Army.
In the said report, doing rounds early this October, it was said that as per an insider, in the last four months in New Delhi and Mumbai, the RSS representatives have held over six such informal meetings with these platforms.
In furtherance of the rumours, recently the head of the Netflix international originals, Shrishti Behl Arya has unequivocally denied all reports suggesting that any such meeting has taken place between the senior officials of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the streaming giant Netflix. Behl Arya got an opportunity to make a public statement denying these allegations during a panel discussion on the ongoing Jio MAMI 21st Mumbai Film Festival with Star on October 20, 2019. She was engaged in a panel discussion on “Artistic Freedom: Mapping Out The Entertainment Story”. At the said event, she was posed with questions regarding the said media reports to which she replied as “It’s not a true story. There was no meeting at all. It’s fake news.” Behl also denied that there was any informal meeting organised between the two parties- RSS and Netflix.
Digital Censorship in India, the giants, speak!
The panel in the discussion consisted of Aparna Purohit, the head of India Originals of Amazon Prime, musician Sona Mohapatra and actor Sobhita Dhulipala. Towards the end of the discussion, as planned, in the Question and Answer session, both Shrishti and Aparna were asked to comment on how their views at the constant speculation of the imposition of digital censorship. Aparna, the head of Amazon Originals, promptly replied, “We will continue to comply with the law of the land,”. Shrishti, in her comments was seen to be on the same page as Aparna. She said that the law of the land is not subjective like storytelling. The spaces permissible to charter into will always be decided by the law and then the further exploration of the space by the creators and their stories is the freedom of creative expression exercised.
Censorship on Netflix and Amazon Prime?
Once before, these streaming giants were in the news when a report by the Reuters revealed that, India might be looking into the direction of bringing streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon in the purview of censorship. Bringing these platforms under censorship would’ve meant a double check as already the film and television certification bodies are moderating the content aired in India. As per the present legal framework, monitoring the content of these streaming platforms is not within the scope of the censorships laws. These concerns arose in light of several pending litigations filed against the content of these channels in the past months. Most of these allegations are based on ‘obscene comment’ or ‘insulting religious sentiments’.
Earlier, in January this year Netflix and another streaming platform, Hotstar had signed a self-regulation code. However, no similar initiative was taken up by Amazon, which later commented that the current laws of the country are enough. However, a government official who was in direct knowledge of such speculations said, that the problem with self-regulation code is that it is not the same for everyone. This gives space to the government to intervene and regulate.