Question: You are a senior official in Information Broadcasting ministry. One day you receive a complaint against a movie for showing some controversial content that goes against religious beliefs. As the issue picks up pace, the makers of the movie advocate freedom of expression for making a movie, and conservative sections propagate protection of beliefs. As a responsible official, what can be your actions to provide a peaceful solution to the issue?
Answer: Difference of opinion is a common feature in democracy and this sometimes leads to clashes between different groups. It is the duty of public officials to maintain their neutrality in these situations by taking actions based on guidelines.
In current circumstances, the first aim will be to prevent clashes that may occur if the controversy is allowed to prevail. My actions would therefore be towards bringing consensus among the groups.
My course of action
- Look for provisions under the law
Firstly I would look for legislative provisions that gives guidelines for movies so that I can gauge if any legal violations have happened. If law allows banning such content, I would be encouraged to take the same if all measures fail.
- Meeting between opposers and supporters
To understand their side of the story, I would arrange for a meeting between stakeholders of both the sides. I will try to bring consensus between the two groups so that issue gets resolved without further controversy.
- Voluntary actions by makers
If there is no consensus between groups and both sides are adamant, I will be compelled to force any one group to budge. In this case, the burden of proving innocence falls on filmmakers. If they fail to prove that their actions are valid, I will request them to censor the content.
- Forceful Censor
If the filmmakers are adamant about not censoring, I would request the stakeholders to approach judiciary. The judiciary will decide if the arguments of filmmakers are valid or not regarding the content of their film.
Freedom of expression and offence have a very thin line for distinction. It is known that freedom of expression is a fundamental right but it is not exclusive. This has to be taken into account.
Thus, I would follow the criteria set for handling such issues before coming to a decision. I would take extra caution to ensure that my personal opinion does not influence my professional decisions.