Democracy online

Posted: August 10, 2010 in No- nonsense

There is so much ruckus being created on the online forums. Literally any topical issue under the sun is discussed, dissected, debated and criticized in the various readers’ forums. It is a free, open and bold world out there.

People do not hesitate to write against or accuse people of rank and file or condemn the corridors of power. There are writers who bring up earnest issues that need immediate attention and public review. And of course, there are those who criticize government policies and undertakings – with or without sufficient proofs.

The writers use a sobriquet as a defensive garb to express their opinions (some bordering at extremes), to share and seek ideas and others use the platform to be heard and to hear out. Anonymity and secrecy is the catchword which emboldens the ‘forumites’, as they have started to call themselves, to tongue lash any one. Online discussion forums to ordinary citizens have taken the proverbial proportion of the double edged sword with which they can criticize and question higher authorities without having to face the consequences of rebellion.

There is no denying the fact that online discussion forums play an important role. It offers people with a platform to raise their views and opinions on issues pertaining to national and individual interests. In a vibrant democracy, public opinions make all the difference.

In a democratic set up or an undemocratic set up for that matter, the internet saga has been both a boon and a bane. Responsible citizen journalism has the power to sway governments and initiate public debates eventually changing unfriendly public policies. Often, internet discussions generate massive public opinions and policy makers take note of it.

Blogging for example has been used by writers across the globe to bring out neglected issues, fight for rights of the marginalized communities and campaign for equity and balanced progress, serving as a voice to those who do not have one. It is perceived as a powerful instrument of change.

However, at the other end of the pole, online forums can be misused for a lot of reasons.

A likely precedent that has been already set in Bhutan is that discussion forums have become common places where people try to settle scores through defamatory write ups. Rather than engaging in constructive debates some burst out with vile, venomous comments without any substance of argument. As educated, participatory citizens, this reflects negatively about the most informed section of the Bhutanese electorate. And there are chances that discussions forums can be misused for spreading political propaganda, furthering wrong beliefs and causes that could be harmful to national interest.

What it boils down to is while freedom of expression is a hallmark of any democracy; it is equally about responsibilities too.

We have been given the tools. Now it depends on how we use it

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