The Act Of Media Workshop – Report & Recordings


The Act of Media Workshop, 08-10 January 2016, brought together academics, researchers, and legal practitioners, to discuss themes that were broadly related to law, media and technology. One of the main aims of the workshop was to breakdown disciplinary boundaries, and rethink categories such as ‘media law’. The workshop was divided into six substantive sessions, and a roundtable where the participants brought together some of the threads from the discussions. Lawrence Liang, in the introductory session, pointed out that the manner in which lawyers and the legal community has engaged with the media in media law has been instrumental, and that the workshop was meant to correct this trend.

The workshop began with a session on Forensics, Evidence and the Legal Trial. The first two speakers Mayur Suresh and Jinee Lokaneeta focused on different aspects of the court trial- the role of the ‘file’, and the way in which narcoanalysis is carried out to check for the truth. Suresh’s paper focused on terror trials in Delhi and Kashmir, while Lokaneeta looked specifically at the Aarushi murder trial, and the way in which scientific-technical apparatus are mobilized to support a particular version of events.

The second half of this session looked at two aspects of evidence. Pallavi Paul looked at ways in which the forensic practices of audio and video lend a specific charge to the notions of time, spatiality, and evidence, in ordinary investigations done by the cyber cell in Delhi. Megha Sahadev traced the way in which video is mobilized as evidence during one domestic violence case that she followed in Delhi.

The second panel was on the theme of free speech, privacy, and consent. Arudra Burra’s paper in this panel asked the question of how one frames free speech debates, by looking at the ways in which civil liberties and free speech concerns overlapped between publications brought out by the ideological left and right in post independent India. Frank Cody’s paper referred to the criminal defamation cases filed by the state of Tamil Nadu against journalists and newspaper editors, and used this material to question the focus on the anonymous space of mass publicity. Cody in his paper argued that in Tamil Nadu journalists accused of defamation, have in turn used these charges to generate publicity, describing this as news publicity bleeding into public value. Burra and Cody’s paper complicated the traditional understanding of freedom of speech and expression.

The second half of the panel focused on questions related to privacy and consent. Ranjit Singh, in his paper focused on the legal debate around the Unique Identity Project (UID), and framing of the debate as one between the right to registration and the right to privacy. Bishakha Datta looked specifically gender-based violence on social media, specifically examining the increasing number of videos of both real and simulated rapes that have been circulating on Whatsapp and other platforms. Datta pointed out that while some sections of the law club rape videos as pornography, there are other sections, which are more nuanced, and frame this offence as a violation of privacy. Datta described how consent could be broken down in the case of rape videos as consent related to the sex act, the filming of the act, and the circulation and distribution of the video.

The second day of the workshop began with a panel on titled “Law, Media, Medium”. The papers by Ishita Tiwary, Avishek Ray, and Smarika Kumar examined the way in which the law has engaged with different forms of media – from the paintings of Chittaprasad in the colonial period, to the 1980s emergence of video technology to the more recent emergence of Internet regulation through the net neutrality debates.

The second panel focused on cinema and censorship. Kartik Nair’s paper examined the film certification documents that are related to cut films, through the genre of horror. Silpa Mukherjee looked at the circulation of item numbers on You Tube, and the debates around censorship and regulation that this has given rise to. Ravinder Singh’s paper examined the petitioning in the colonial period around films on Bhagat Singh. These papers, moving from the colonial period to the 1970s and the current moment, juxtaposed the relationship between law and cinema in these periods.

The final session on the second day was distinct from the other panels in this workshop, and focused on the concerns that legal practitioners face in India, while litigating matters related to electronic evidence, and intermediary liability. The speakers touched upon a number of contemporary legal issues including the section 66A Information Technology Act litigation, the invoking of section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to prevent access to the Internet, the strategies used by lawyers in the constitutional challenge to criminal defamation law, and the import of using electronic evidence on legal trials.

The first session on the final day of the workshop was titled Law, Language and Media Cultures. Shaunak Sen’s paper examined the way sting videos are deployed in Bollywood cinema. Arpita Ghosh and Siddharth Narrain looked at two different aspects of law and language. Ghosh’s paper examined the controversy around the AIB roast and how law, especially the law of obscenity deals with humour. Narrain’s paper examined the changing contours of hate speech law with the increased use of social media, and circulation of material meant to incite violence through Facebook, Whatsapp, You Tube and Twitter.

The final session of the workshop was a roundtable meant to bring together strands from the various sessions. Ravi Sundaram flagged key issues that emerged – the emergence of a post-public public sphere; suspension of media time, and the emergent state responses to the Internet, which are in the form of a “killer switch”. Frank Cody stressed that with new technologies the shared contexts that help imagine a public sphere can no longer me assumed.

A detailed report by the rapporteurs can be accessed from this LINK.

Select audio recordings from the workshop are available below.

Day 01 | Friday, 08 January, 2016

Introductory Remarks by Siddharth Narrain, Ravi Sundaram and Lawrence Liang

Download: MP3

ACT I SCENE I: Forensics, Evidence, and the Legal Trial
Chair: Ravi Sundaram

Part I:

Mayur Suresh: “The Multiverse of a Terrorism Trial”

Download: MP3

Jinee Lokaneeta: “Narco Videos, Forensic Psychologists and the Truth Telling Apparatus: Tracing Evidence, Law and Media Trials”

Download: MP3

Discussion

Download: MP3

Part II:

Megha Sahadev: “An Archival of Betrayal: The Use of Personal Documentary Evidence of Domestic Violence in the Courtroom and Beyond”

Pallavi Paul: “Objects as Exhibits: Performance of the Forensic”

ACT I SCENE II: Free Speech, Privacy, and Consent
Chair: Nivedita Menon

Part I:

Francis Cody: “Defamation Law and the Political Body in Tamil News”

Download: Mp3

Arudra Burra: “Civil Liberties and Political Ideology: The Early Constitutional History of Freedom of Speech”

Download: MP3

Discussion

Download: MP3

Part II:

Ranjit Singh: “Making up Aadhaar: Stories at the Intersection of Law, STS and Public Values”

Download: MP3

Bishakha Datta: “The Faultlines of Consent”

Download: MP3

Discussion

Download: MP3

Day 02 | Saturday, 09 January, 2016 

ACT II SCENE I: Law, Media, Medium
Chair: Lawrence Liang

Avishek Ray: “Testimonial Evidentialism and the Media: The Famine Paintings of 1943”

Download: MP3

Ishita Tiwary: “Video and the Moment of Legal Disruption”

Download: MP3

Smarika Kumar: “The Legal Understanding and Assertion of Authority of Law over New Technologies”

Download: MP3

Discussion

Download: MP3

ACT II SCENE II: Cinema and Censorship
Chair: Ravi Vasudevan

Kartik Nair: “Paperwork/Film: Censorship and the Hindi Horror Film After the Emergency”

Download: MP3

Silpa Mukherjee: “Censored, Curated and Licensed: Item Numbers after Film”

Download: MP3

Ravinder Singh: “Censoring the Afterlives of National Heroes”

Discussion

Download: MP3

ACT II SCENE III: Legal Procedure, Online Culpability, and Electronic Evidence
Chair: Jawahar Raja

Abhinav Shrivastava: “Decoding the Relation between Evidence Law and Media Technologies in South Asia”

Download: MP3

N. S. Nappinai: “Culpability for Online Content”

Apar Gupta: “Striking Down or Reading Down: Examining Litigation Strategies in the Challenge to Criminal Defamation Law”

Day 03 | Sunday, 10 January, 2016

ACT III SCENE I: Law, Language, and Media Cultures
Chair: Francis Cody

Shaunak Sen: “The Sting Effect”

Arpita Ghosh: “’Dirty Words’: Law, Media and Language in the AIB Roast”

Download: MP3

Siddharth Narrain: “ ‘Objectionable Material’ and the Changing Contours of Hate Speech Law”

Download: MP3

Discussion

Download: MP3

ACT III SCENE II: Round Table Discussion

Download: MP3

 

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Published on: March 3, 2016


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