It appears that Gulshan Rai, the head of India’s Cybersecurity body CERT-in, at a cyber security conference accused us at MediaNama of being a front for Google because we spoke up against India’s draconian IT Rules. At least, that’s what Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan of the Times Group has just tweeted. Dr Rai suggested that Radhakrishnan look into our “funding”, as well as that of CIS India. The tweets, in reverse chronological order:

Our response to this

1. Our Funding Status: For the record: Google has not funded us, and has never even ever advertised with us. We provide disclosures on all our advertisers in related stories (sample 1, 2, 3); we operate transparently. We are unfunded and bootstrapped, and to be honest, I had to take a call two months ago about whether MediaNama should continue or not, because of paucity of resources; we shut some projects and had to ask a few people to leave, and we’re doing all right now. The editorial space is sacrosanct, and we would rather shut down than prostitute journalism.

2. On the IT Rules and monitoring: We chose to raise awareness of these issues because we believe that this is in the interest of the digital ecosystem, as well as in the broader interest of democracy, freedom of speech and civil liberty in India. We see it as our responsibility to raise these issues and talk to all interested citizens, companies and industry bodies about them, and not because of some imagined funders. We have raised these issues here, you should also read this and this.

We believe that the IT Rules need to be put up for consultation again, and not be made so broad that it gives the Indian government an overriding authority to selectively censor what they want, and pass the buck to the intermediaries who have been left with no option but to do what the government tells them, if they want to retain their Safe Harbor and avoid prosecution.

3. On Dr Rai’s statement about us: In response to this ad-hominem statement,  we would say that the only thing we want is for Dr Rai and the Department of Information Technology to have a public debate on the rationale and the merits of the IT Rules; another consultation, and a new set of rules taking on board citizens concerns around privacy and freedom of speech would be greatly appreciated. Addressing issues related to privacy of citizens posed by the Home Ministry’s Big Brother tender would be great. We would be glad to meet Dr Rai and discuss ways of addressing these issues.

We will continue to support, in whatever way we can, the following issues (and this is not a definitive list):

– Against the dilution of the Right To Information Act.
– In favor of the institution of an Open Data and Open Policy regime, and the notion that government information and policy not related to national security should be made available for citizens to access online.
– In favor of Participatory governance, and for the government to take measures to involve citizens in policy making through a wider consultation process
– In favor of Protection of Freedom of Speech and the independence of the media.
– Against Paid News and corruption in the Media, and the enforcement of disclosures and transparency measures
– In favor of the institution and enforcement of strong Privacy laws and protection of anonymity, especially in the digital and mobile space, including protection from misuse by the government and political party in power.

It’s interesting that just because we have taken a stand, it is assumed that there are malevolent forces at work. This is not the case.

Corrigendum: this post incorrectedly referred to Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan as being from the Economic Times, instead of the Times Group.