Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Letter from the Reader – On Publishing Slanderous Comments

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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The dilemma of free speech on the internet.

[By Jess Sikand; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

In August, 2009, I made an unpopular comment on the topic of expats, Delhi and attitudes to poverty in an article published on The Delhi WallaWhy Scorn Delhi Expats. As the moderator of comments, the site’s blogger, Mayank Austen Soofi, duly published it.

I had taken care not to attack anyone personally, or viciously. However, Mr Soofi allowed his other readers to make personal attacks against me. While it were other people who made personal insults on my character, Mr Soofi appeared to have tactically approved them by choosing to publish such libelous statements on his blogsite.

I thought slander/libel was something the journalistic profession steered away from as they not only have legal consequences (at least here) but that they only detract from the issue that is at hand. As Mr Soofi’s blog is a journalistic piece and he himself is a journalist, I ask him this: by publishing these acidic comments against me is he agreeing with them and endorsing them?

Although the editorial process could be tricky because one does not want to stifle free speech Mr Soofi ought to consider the spirit of the comments and their result. In this instance, there was no intelligent debate just mud slinging (more specifically, s**it-slinging).

We all have our reputation to maintain. If my views were disagreeable, then I would happily read the counterpoint. However, I am very alarmed at the derogatory comments published about me. Anybody could trace them by entering my name in any search engine. My friends, family, colleagues, my children's friends, acquaintances, business connections, former students and professors could easily come across these hideous and libellous statements.

I feel Mr Soofi should not have placed me in this situation. None of those commentators actually chose to answer to my points; instead they made nasty accusations. Were they really comments on the issue raised by the concerned piece? Or was it just a hate speech toward me for suggesting a different viewpoint? Where is the tolerance for other views without an online vigilante posse hanging me with their noose of words?

Ultimately, the blogger of this blogsite is the decision maker as to what is posted on his blog. And that includes the comments (especially if they are moderated comments).

I would like Mr Soofi to address this issue. This online publishing is not a child's game; its consequences reach worldwide. As the gatekeeper of a popular blog I hope to hear his reply.

The Delhi Walla responds:
Dear Ms Sikand,
I am sorry if the comments against your comment have put you in distress. Your correspondence will hopefully stir a debate on this whole politics of accepting or rejecting comments in the blogworld. I will be more careful in moderating comments. (I’m not a journalist, but a reporter).
Best wishes,
Mayank Austen Soofi


Abhi said...

Dear Ms Sikand,

Does it really matter what individuals think or say. Let them say what they want, must you come with justifications and reasons.

Granted, that the tirade against an individual is unwarranted and utterly disgusting- but the individual had the choice of being anonymous or using a pseudonym. If the writer chooses to not exercise either of the options, he/she is running the risk of being singled out.

I have my personal thoughts of what Delhi is and what it can be. Like anybody else, I am entitled to have this opinion and come what may it does not really affect what others say.

In other words - simply ignore. Its like this, if you walk through an alley filled with stench, its bound to repulse you. The choice then is yours - whether to hold your breath, accept it or walk some other alley. But to blame the stench on the alley is not right.

I appreciate Soofi's 'reluctance' at moral policing/censoring whats published here. Atleast, here's one place where one can pen what one feels without the risk of the mighty scissors clipping the unwanted.

Ms Sikand, I apologise, if any of my statements hurt you.


Za'eem Shujaat said...

well, simple, when you are a participant on blogs, you are (indirectly) agreeing to counter-comment. People gave their views, so what? Ms.Sikand, if you are so concerned about your reputaation, then simply live in an oyster shell...but, if you are also giving views, it is only fair people give their opinions -- good and bad -- that is called dialoguing.

Your attack on Mayank is unnecessary. He is not obligated to anyone...if you note, he has also received negative comments about himself, so why does he not censor those? Simply, he has a strong veneer....please, i recommend you take your loss of reputation upon yourself, for YOU WERE THE ONE who began by commenting.

I find your letter highly a childish rant and Mayank is not responsible nor are we the readers responsible for your losses. If you are so disturbed, I suggest you simply do not visit this amazing blog, else, if you comment, please do expect others to not necessarily agree with you.

Za'eem Shujat

Rajiv said...

chalta hai yaar
dilli waloon ka dil bhi bada hota hai.
waise personal comments are not good

vimesh said...

The day when people are forced to accept censorship or to moderate the views and expression of others that day would be like for me at least that i am living in a military junta regime or in some dictatorship....

we have got free speech and i think in a democracy "IF WE ARE LIVING IN " the most precious tool in our hands is we agree to disagree ...

and today a simple thing like forcing the owner of the blog to remove comments which are slanderous has come...i think mayank already is tolerant and he does maintains an balance ...

But we need to hear both side of the views...i think this blog is not like any other right wing blog were u disagree , u r literally crucified...This blog i think is the one of the few symbols of free speech which is left in india...

and hey at the end of the lets be cool and cherish this life...and see we are able to do something better for the needy and the downtrodden

we are all writing pro and anti comments sitting in the comforts of our homepad where at the same time there are people out there who are worried what would their children eat...

so at least we should be thankful to Rab'b that he has given us this comfort and do not act like the Tony snobs...

Listen to your heart and not your ego. Your ego prompts you to boast of vain assertions to obtain the glory of this world. Turn away from vanity and seek Him in the recesses of your heart and soul.

- Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA)

sorry if i offended any one

Vivian Tedder said...

I think opinions should be shared online in an atmosphere of tacit respect. But this assumes we all come to the table with a common idea of humanity.

Jess Sikand invited criticism/ comment simply by adding her comment to the blog. She asserted that the wealthy have made their money and should be free to spend it as they like. In a perfect world. But a look behind many a wealthy person may show that they have not come by it through their own hard work but that the wealth is either inherited or built on exploitation or both. Of course there are exceptions.

Jess Sikand is to be congratulated for the work she and her family have done to alleviate the pain of the less fortunate.

Ms Sikand says "Most people of character do not gloat about their charitable conributions (sic) or volunteerism" and then, strangely, goes on to do just that.

In her anger, she resorted to tired stereotypes and insults. "Pathetic middle-class urbanites ... Losers, the bunch of you". This was addressed to Mr Kohli and tacitly to all those who had previously posted comments so it was both personal and pretty vicious.

Ms Sikand is right: Journalists should steer away from libel but Mayank's blog itself is not libelous. The comments written by others and posted to the blog cannot be considered libelous unless it can be proved that Mayank acted with malice, and knowingly published something false.

Nevertheless, as Ms Sikand says, the spirit of comments should be carefully weighed. Unfortunately it is hard to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A useful comment may be followed by a barbed one in the same sentence.

As for Ms Sikand's reputation, even if her comments had stood alone, without any of the others, they would still be searchable and would still have incriminated her by revealing parts of her character. Ms Sikand, if you don't want to be searchable, don't use your proper name.

Anonymous said...

i think we all should learn do's and don'ts of blogging from this blog http://theunlabeledblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/blogging-etiquette.html

but these are your views ...u cannot expect the world to follow as you like

many times there is a duel between the commentators .That is called democracy,That called the real Town Hall meetings,That's called debate.

and i think in US at least we got the first amendment so i am perplexed that many people who live in US ,but act like they are still in feudal society.

Abdusalaam al-Hindi said...

It doesn't matter what people say in the comments section of a blog. It's just an opinion, on a personal blog of all things. I'm quite sure people out there will not judge you on what people wrote in the comments section of a blog. And as others have suggested; if you have something controversial to say, don't use your real name.

SSD said...

Mayank, the diatribe towards you from people is unacceptable. I am least amazed that you are consulting with others for corrective standards on publishing comments on your blog. This is your site, you make up the ideals and for those who seem perturbed about people commenting, they should think thrice before submitting their views. That you are seeking public guidelines is a bit corybantic -- I wish you would not permit such inane space for a wonderful blog that you have. You do not need to carry Ms.Sikand's monkey on your back -- she gave her opinion and needs to accept others views. if this is unsettling for her, there are many less comprehensive-catering blogs to her standards. That she has written this letter is rather juvenille and you entertaining such cribbing is beyond my comprehension. Get a closure on this and you are the driver -- you be the judge.

But -- I know your heart, and for those who do not, there is no need to explain your gravity.


Ramit said...

Hi Jess, I just read what you wrote in your comment on the other article and I do not think it should have offended or hurt anyone anyhow. It was a comment like any other comments. And all of us should understand that Mayank is doing a great job for all of us. I mean none of us are paying him to do this are we? He's working hard to show us a lot of things about Delhi that we otherwise would never even notice inspite of having lived here for ages. Let's not ruin this for him by using his personal space to fight & crib over trivial issues. I think you're doing a great job Mayank, keep it up. Hope your trip in Spain is very nice and you have a lot of fun. Take care. You too Jess.