Our special series on artists, filmmakers, journalists, writers and ordinary citizens who have been victimized for saying what they think. Between legal action, violence and harassment by state and non-state actors they have paid a heavy price for the right to freedom of expression.
The violent massacre of cartoonists at French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the outrage and lawsuit against the comedy group AIB, the new directives to filmmakers from India’s Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) and Tamil writer Perumal Murugan declaring that he has quit writing are just some cases that have reignited the debate on the right to freedom of expression.
In this special series, Boom documents the experiences of people who have been at the receiving end of both legitimate and illegitimate action for saying what they think.
Aseem Trivedi, Cartoonist
After this incident, I don’t think I am afraid. In fact I think I have emerged as a stronger person in life. I also have faith that people will always lend their support. Now, I have better clarity on free speech and now that I have found my voice there’s no turning back and I can raise my voice better.
The 27-year-old cartoonist was arrested by the Mumbai police in September 2012. His cartoons, that used the house of parliament and national emblems like the Ashoka Pillar to comment on corruption in Indian politics at the height of the India Against Corruption movement’s agitation in Delhi, got him four days in jail and court cases on the grounds of sedition, insulting and dishonouring the nation and spreading criminal content online.
While the charge of sedition has been dropped, Trivedi continues to battle the other charges in two different court cases that are ongoing. His original website that had published the ‘offensive’ cartoons, www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.
Trivedi is undaunted by the experience and is currently running a campaign to protest against the imprisonment and flogging of the blogger and activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. It’s called ‘A Cartoon against Every Lash’ and started in January this year. Though Trivedi has found that the controversy has made people wary of hiring him, he believes it has helped him both as an artist and an activist.
He says, “After this incident, I don’t think I am afraid. In fact I think I have emerged as a stronger person in life. I also have faith that people will always lend their support. Now, I have better clarity on free speech and now that I have found my voice there’s no turning back and I can raise my voice better.”
Also, on ‘Testing The Limits Of Freedom Of Expression’, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan shares his experience.