Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Times Publishing House's Fight Against Free Speech

As has been reported at Spicy IP and Legally India the Times Publishing House - which owns Times of India - is threatening to sue for defamation a 22 year old student blogger for one of her posts on Spicy IP. The case, which is succinctly recounted on the above links, stems from a post in which she comments on the Times Publishing House's ongoing litigation with the Financial Times Ltd over a trademark dispute.

The NUJS student's post in question mostly just recounts articles from the Mint updating readers on the status of the litigation. Nothing sensational. (Read it). Yet, it apparently sent the Times Publishing House into a tizzy, causing them to be "shocked and surprised" as their lawyers at K Datta and Associates empathized in their notice to the college student.

This action by the Times Publishing House follows on the heals of a defamation suit by NATCO against Shamnad Basheer for a post he also wrote for Spicy IP. This trend of corportate houses trying to crack down on bloggers through defamation suits who they feel cast them in an unflattering light (or any light at all) is deeply disturbing and one of the more significant threats to free speech in India today - not to mention the development of a vibrant legal academy. The courts should send a clear signal that such intimidating tactics will not be tolerated.

Spicy IP does a good job at cataloging all the relevant material so I will let you read through their post on the matter if you like. I'll just end by saying that I was surprised to learn from the Times Group's notice to the student in para 7 that their position is that when there has been a factual inaccuracy in an article that the proper response is to "publish the true and correct facts . . . with the same prominence with which you had published the [original] impugned article." This admission I am sure will be welcome to anyone who has ever had any factual inaccuracy reported about them in the Times of India that might have caused them to be "shocked or surprised" and we can look forward to many front page above-the-fold apologies from Times of India in the future. 
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