- Global Internet Freedom in 2023
- Microbiome Research: From Niche to Prominence and Challenging Perceptions
- Hate Speech
- Nobel Peace Prize 2023
- Israel’s Iron Dome and Yom Kippur war
- Aditya-L1 Mission
According to a report by Freedom House (a Washington DC-based non-profit) on the state of Global Internet Freedom in 2023, there is a concerning trend of declining Internet freedom for the 13th consecutive year, with 29 countries experiencing a deterioration in the environment for human rights online.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- Key Highlights of the Report on Internet Freedom
- Censorship: Control and Regulation of Information and Expression
- Advantages and Limitations of Censorship
- Way Forward
Key Highlights of the Report on Internet Freedom
- The report assesses developments between June 2022 and May 2023.
- Evaluation spans 70 countries, collectively representing 88% of the global Internet user population.
Censorship Methods Evaluated:
Countries are evaluated based on five censorship methods:
- Internet connectivity restrictions
- Blocks on social media platforms
- Website blocks
- VPN blocks
- Forced removal of online content
Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI):
- AI-driven tools are increasingly sophisticated and accessible.
- AI is employed in at least 16 countries to disseminate disinformation.
- In 22 countries, AI enhances content censorship efficiency, automating the removal of politically, socially, or religiously unacceptable content.
- A record high of 55 out of the 70 assessed countries witnessed legal consequences for online expression.
- Physical Threats Due to Online Statements:
- In 41 countries, individuals faced assault or fatal attacks due to their online statements.
- Iran experienced increased digital repression, marked by Internet shutdowns, social media platform blocks, and heightened surveillance to suppress anti-government protests.
- China retained its status as the worst country for Internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year.
- Myanmar ranked as the second most repressive country for online freedom.
- India incorporated AI-based censorship into its legal framework, impacting freedom of expression and criticism of the ruling party.
- The report raises concerns about adverse consequences for Indian democracy, particularly as the country prepares for general elections in 2024. This expansion of the censorship regime creates an uneven playing field.
Censorship: Control and Regulation of Information and Expression
- Censorship refers to the practice of suppressing or managing information, ideas, or expressions considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or threatening to specific groups, organizations, or governments.
- It involves limiting or prohibiting the dissemination, publication, or access to certain content, and can be enforced by individuals, institutions, or authorities.
Censorship in India:
- In India, censorship laws encompass a wide array of content that enters the public domain, including advertisements, theatre, films, series, music, speeches, reports, debates, magazines, newspapers, art forms, literature, documentaries, and oral works.
Mechanisms of Censorship in India:
- Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C):
- Section 95 of the Cr.P.C permits the forfeiture of specific content or publications.
- State Governments can use this section to take legal action if content in newspapers, books, or documents is deemed harmful to the state.
- Central Bureau of Film Certification (CBFC):
- CBFC, operating under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, regulates the content of films made available to the public.
- It employs a system of prior certification for films, and broadcasters are required to adhere to the guidelines set forth in the ‘Programme Code and Advertisement Code.’
- Press Council of India:
- Established under the Press Council Act, 1978, this statutory and quasi-judicial body serves as a self-regulatory authority for the press.
- It monitors media content to ensure adherence to press ethics and the public interest.
- The Cable Television Networks Act, 1995:
- This act governs the content that can be broadcasted on cable television.
- Cable operators must register as per the act to ensure oversight.
- Social Media Platforms and the New IT Rules, 2021:
- Censorship concerns grew with the rapid expansion of social media in India.
- The Information and Technology Act, 2000, particularly Sections 67A, 67B, 67C, and 69A, include provisions for regulating social media use.
- IT (Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021:
- These rules, introduced alongside amendments to the ‘Allocation of Business Rules’ under the IT Act, 2000, brought digital media, online platforms, and OTT (Over The Top) services under the purview of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Advantages and Limitations of Censorship
- Preventing Disharmony and Communal Discord:
- Censorship prevents the dissemination of objectionable content that can incite communal discord, thereby promoting social harmony.
- Protecting Social Stability and National Safety:
- Censorship, particularly of the internet, can safeguard social stability and national security by curbing illegal activities and internet-related crimes.
- Curbing Illegal Activities and Threats to Economy:
- Censorship can deter illegal organizations from releasing harmful information that could disrupt the national economy and political stability.
- Countering False Beliefs and Rumors:
- Governments can use censorship to counter false beliefs, rumors, and misinformation, thereby maintaining public order.
- Protecting Children and Vulnerable Groups:
- Internet censorship filters out inappropriate and harmful content, shielding children from disturbing websites like child pornography, sexual violence, and drug-related instructions.
- Moral Policing and Intrusion into Private Lives:
- Censorship legislation can be misapplied, becoming a tool for moral policing that controls individuals’ lives rather than addressing broader public concerns.
- Risk of Discretionary Political Control:
- Broad powers granted to regulatory bodies, often composed of bureaucrats, may lead to discretionary political control over censorship decisions.
- Varied Interpretations of Morality:
- The definitions of morality, taste, and distaste vary widely in India, making it challenging to enforce consistent and fair censorship.
- Conflict with Constitutional Freedom of Speech:
- Intense censorship can conflict with the constitutional guarantee of free speech and expression, subject to reasonable restrictions, for all Indian citizens.
- Legal and Regulatory Safeguards:
- Strong legal and regulatory safeguards should be in place to protect freedom of speech and expression, particularly in the realm of digital communications and access to information.
- AI Regulation:
- Appropriate regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) is essential to ensure that it bolsters internet freedom rather than suppressing it, striking a balance between security and individual rights.
-Source: The Hindu
Over the past two decades, Microbiome Research has evolved from a niche subject to a prominent and highly discussed field in science. It primarily focuses on studying microbial interactions and activities within the human gut. Recent assessments have revealed the intricate complexity of the human microbiome, challenging some previously widely accepted notions.
GS III: Science
Dimensions of the Article:
- Understanding Microbiome
- Myths Surrounding Microbiome in Human Body
- The microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms, including fungi, bacteria, and viruses, residing in a specific environment.
- In humans, it commonly refers to microorganisms living on or in various body parts, influenced by factors like diet, exercise, medications, and environmental exposures.
Myths Surrounding Microbiome in Human Body:
The Age of the Field:
- Misconception: Microbiome Research is a recent field.
- Reality: Scientists discussed the benefits of gut bacteria like Escherichia coli and Bifidobacteria as far back as the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Question of Origin:
- Misconception: Joshua Lederberg is solely credited with popularizing the term “microbiome” in 2001.
- Reality: The term was used in 1988 to describe microbial communities.
The Number and Mass of Microbes:
- Misconception: The human microbiome weighs 1-2 kg.
- Reality: The weight is approximately 200 grams, and microbial cells in feces number around 10^10 to 10^12 per gram.
From Mother to Child:
- Misconception: Mothers pass their microbiomes to children at birth.
- Reality: Only a fraction of microbes is directly transferred during birth, and each adult develops a unique microbiota.
Microbes are Dangerous:
- Misconception: Microbial interactions with our cells always lead to diseases.
- Reality: Whether a microbe is beneficial or harmful depends on the context, and some microbes coexist without causing harm.
The Firmicutes-Bacteroidetes Ratio:
- Misconception: Obesity is linked to the Firmicutes-Bacteroidetes ratio.
- Reality: Broad phylum-level ratios do not provide meaningful insights into health or disease.
Functionality and Redundancy of Microbes:
- Misconception: All microbes in the microbiome have redundant functions.
- Reality: Different species within the microbiome perform unique and essential functions.
Bias in Sequencing:
- Misconception: Microbiome sequencing is entirely unbiased.
- Reality: Biases can be introduced at various stages of sequencing, influencing results.
Standardized Methods in Microbiome Research:
- Misconception: Standardized methods are infallible.
- Reality: While important for comparisons, all methods have limitations that must be acknowledged.
Culturing the Microbiome:
- Misconception: Microbes from the human microbiome are mostly unculturable.
- Reality: Gaps in culture collections are due to a lack of previous effort rather than inherent ‘unculturability.’
-Source: Down To Earth
A recent analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) reveals that a concerning number of lawmakers in India have hate speech cases against them.
- A total of 107 Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) have hate speech cases registered against them.
GS II- Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is “Hate Speech”?
- Laws related to hate speech in India
- Indian Penal Code on Hate Speech
- Observations of different institutions related to hate speech
- Rangila Rasool case
- Later cases
What is “Hate Speech”?
- In general, “Hate Speech” refers to words whose intent is to create hatred towards a particular group, that group may be a community, religion or race.This speech may or may not have meaning, but is likely to result in violence.
- BPRD Definition: The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases that defined hate speech as a “language that denigrates, insults, threatens or targets an individual based on their identity and other traits (such as sexual orientation or disability or religion etc.).”
- According to the Law Commission of India, “Hate speech generally is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like. This, hate speech is any word written or spoken, signs, visible representations within the hearing or sight of a person with the intention to cause fear or alarm, or incitement to violence.”
Laws related to hate speech in India
Article 19 of the Constitution– Freedom of Speech and Expression is guaranteed to all the citizens of India. However, the right is subjected to reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Indian Penal Code on Hate Speech
- Section 295A defines and prescribes a punishment for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
- “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both,” the IPC section reads.
- According to Section 153A of IPC, “promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”, is a punishable offence and attracts three years of imprisonment.
- According to Section 505 of IPC, “Statements that promote mutiny by the armed forces, or causes such fear or alarm that people are induced to commit an offence against the state or public tranquillity; or is intended to incite or incites any class or community to commit an offence against another class or community”, will attract a jail term of up to three years under Section 505(1).
- Under Section 505(2), “it is an offence to make statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.
- Under Section 505(3), the offence will attract up to a five-year jail term if it takes place in a place of worship, or in any assembly engaged in religious worship or religious ceremonies.
Observations of different institutions related to hate speech
- The Supreme Court had observed that “hate speech is an effort to marginalize individuals based on their membership in a group. It seeks to delegitimize group members in the eyes of the majority, reducing their social standing and acceptance within society. It, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members and lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable….”
- The Human Rights Council’s ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression’ expressed that freedom of expression can be restricted on the following grounds:
- Child pornography (to protect the rights of children).
- Hate speech (to protect the rights of affected communities)
- Defamation (to protect the rights and reputation of others against unwarranted attacks)
- Direct and public incitement to commit genocide (to protect the rights of others)
- Advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (to protect the rights of others, such as the right to life).
Rangila Rasool case
- Rangila Rasool was a tract — brought out by a Hindu publisher — that had made disparaging remarks about the Prophet’s private life. Cases against the first pamphlet, filed under Section 153A, were dismissed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which examined the question whether targeting religious figures is different from targeting religions.
- When a second, similar piece was published, it raised tensions. While the magistrate had convicted the publisher Rajpaul under Section 153A, the Lahore High Court held that a “scurrilous and foul attack” on a religious leader would prima facie fall under Section 153A — although not every criticism.
- This debate in interpretation prompted the colonial government to enact Section 295A with a wider scope to address these issues.
- In 1957, the constitutionality of Section 295A was challenged in Ramji Lal Modi v State of Uttar Pradesh.
- The Supreme Court upheld the law on the grounds that it was brought in to preserve “public order”.
- Public order is an exemption to the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to religion recognised by the Constitution.
- In a 1960 ruling, in Baba Khalil Ahmed v State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court said that “malicious intent” of the accused can be determined not just from the speech in question but also from external sources.
- In 1973, in Ramlal Puri v State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court said the test to be applied is whether the speech in question offends the “ordinary man of common sense” and not the “hypersensitive man”.
- However, these determinations are made by the court and the distinction can often be vague and vary from one judge to the other.
- In Baragur Ramachandrappa v State of Karnataka, a 2007 decision of the Supreme Court, “a pragmatic approach” was invoked in interpreting Section 295A.
- The state government had issued a notification banning Dharmakaarana, a Kannada novel written by award-winning author P V Narayana on the ground that it was hate speech, invoking a gamut of provisions including Section 295A.
- The pragmatic approach was to restore public order by “forfeiture” of a book over individual interest of free speech.
-Source: The Hindu
Recently, Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi has been chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy for the coveted Nobel Peace Prize,2023 for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.
Facts for Prelims
Dimensions of the Article:
- Nobel Peace Prize 2023 Winner
- Narges Mohammadi: Nobel Peace Laureate and Human Rights Advocate
- The Iranian Hijab Movement
Nobel Peace Prize 2023 Winner: Iranian Activist Narges Mohammadi:
- Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian activist, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 by the Royal Swedish Academy.
Reason for Award:
- Narges Mohammadi has been recognized for her tireless efforts in fighting against the oppression of women in Iran.
- She has also been acknowledged for her advocacy in promoting human rights and freedom for all.
- The Nobel Peace Prize acknowledges her significant contributions over the years in advocating for the right to criticize arbitrary policies and defending the fundamental rights of citizens.
- Previous Nobel Peace Prize Recipients:
- In 2022, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.
Narges Mohammadi: Nobel Peace Laureate and Human Rights Advocate
Nobel Peace Laureate:
- Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2023.
- She is recognized as a woman, a human rights advocate, and a freedom fighter.
Recognition of Iranian Demonstrators:
- The Nobel Peace Prize also acknowledges the hundreds of thousands of people who have protested against the discriminatory and oppressive policies of Iran’s theocratic regime, particularly those targeting women.
- The Iranian demonstrators adopted the motto “Woman – Life – Freedom,” which aligns with Narges Mohammadi’s dedication and work.
- Narges Mohammadi actively opposes the death penalty, a cause she champions in a country with a high rate of state executions.
- She has been a strong advocate for women’s rights since her college days.
- Her activism led to her first arrest in 2011, as she worked to assist incarcerated activists and their families.
Fight for Human Rights:
- While in prison, Mohammadi spoke out against the regime’s systematic use of torture and sexualized violence, especially against women political prisoners.
- During the Mahsa Amini Protests (Iranian Hijab Movement), she expressed support for the demonstrators from inside the prison and organized solidarity actions among fellow inmates.
Other Awards and Achievements:
- Narges Mohammadi received the Alexander Langer Award in 2009.
- She was also honored with the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and the Olof Palme Prize in 2023.
- Her book, ‘White Torture: Interviews with Iranian Women Prisoners,’ received an award for reportage at the International Film Festival and Human Rights’ Forum.
The Iranian Hijab Movement:
- In Iran, there is a strict legal requirement for women to wear hijabs or headscarves as part of their regular outfits.
- Violating this dress code can lead to arrests, warnings, or severe punishments.
Mahsa Amini’s Arrest:
- The movement gained momentum after the arrest of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, for breaching the dress code for women in Iran.
Outbreak of Protests:
- Mahsa Amini’s arrest was followed by her tragic death, which sparked widespread protests by Iranian women.
- These protests demanded greater freedom and the right to choose whether or not to wear the hijab.
- The demand for freedom of choice regarding the hijab is no longer confined to Iran; it has become a global movement.
- Cities worldwide, including Auckland, London, Melbourne, New York, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Stockholm, Sydney, and Zurich, witnessed demonstrations in solidarity with Iranian women.
- Banners with slogans like “Women, life, liberty” were prominently displayed during these protests.
-Source: Indian Express
The Hamas militant group launched its worst attack inside the Jewish state’s territory since 1948, killing at least 250 Israelis and abducting several others. The surprise attack has brought back memories of the Yom Kippur war. Journalists have shared an undated video on X of the Iron Dome, Israel’s air defence system, intercepting rockets coming in from Gaza.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- The Iron Dome: Israel’s Missile Defense System
- The Yom Kippur War: A Historic Conflict
- Significance of the Yom Kippur War
The Iron Dome: Israel’s Missile Defense System
- The Iron Dome is a short-range, ground-to-air air defense system used by Israel.
- It comprises radar and Tamir interceptor missiles designed to track and neutralize incoming rockets or missiles targeting Israeli areas.
- It serves the purpose of countering rockets, artillery, mortars (C-RAM), as well as aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
- The development of the Iron Dome can be traced back to the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war when Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
- In response, Israel announced the creation of a new air defense system to protect its cities and citizens.
- Success Rate:
- The Iron Dome was deployed in 2011, with Rafael Advanced Systems claiming a success rate of over 90% and more than 2,000 interceptions.
- However, experts generally agree that the system has an overall success rate of over 80%.
How it Works:
- The Iron Dome operates through three primary systems working in coordination to shield the deployed area from threats:
- Detection and Tracking Radar: This radar identifies incoming threats.
- Battle Management and Weapon Control System (BMC): The BMC acts as an intermediary between the radar and the interceptor missile.
- Missile Firing Unit: This unit launches interceptor missiles.
- The Iron Dome is operational in all weather conditions, including day and night.
- Each missile contains a proximity fuse, which is a laser-controlled fuse that activates when it is within ten meters of the target, releasing shrapnel to destroy it.
- The warhead is detonated to match the missile and target velocities for effective interception.
- The Iron Dome serves as a crucial defense system for Israel, protecting against various threats, especially rocket attacks from hostile entities.
The Yom Kippur War: A Historic Conflict
- The Yom Kippur War, also known as the October War or Ramadan War, took place from October 6 to 25, 1973.
- It was a conflict between Israel on one side and Egypt and Syria on the other.
Significance of Yom Kippur:
- Yom Kippur is the holiest day in Judaism and Samaritanism, observed on the 10th day of the lunar month of Tishri, which usually falls in September or early October.
- It is known as the Day of Atonement.
- Following its decisive victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel had gained a reputation for being unbeatable.
- Israel also captured territories from its neighboring countries during the war, including the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.
- Six years later, in 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack on Israel.
- Israel was caught off guard as it did not expect an attack during the Holy Islamic month of Ramadan.
- Many Israeli soldiers were on leave for Yom Kippur, further delaying their response.
- Initially, both Syria and Egypt made territorial gains.
- Israel eventually halted the advances of Syrian and Egyptian forces after three days and launched counterattacks.
Comparison with Current Violence:
The recent attacks on Israel have been compared to the Yom Kippur War for several reasons:
- Deadliest Attack Since Yom Kippur War: The current violence marks the deadliest attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War, with over 2,500 Israeli soldiers killed during the Yom Kippur conflict.
- Criticism for Unpreparedness: Similar to the Yom Kippur War, the recent attacks on Israel caught the state by surprise, despite Israel’s advanced intelligence and interception systems.
- Timing: The attacks occurred during the observance of Simchat Torah, a significant Jewish holiday that marks the end of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the start of a new one.
Significance of the Yom Kippur War:
- The Yom Kippur War shattered the perception of Israel’s invincibility. The heavy casualties it suffered during the conflict demonstrated that Israel could be seriously harmed, if not defeated, in battle.
- This realization had a lasting impact on Israel’s military and strategic thinking.
- Egypt’s strategy in launching the Yom Kippur War was not necessarily to defeat Israel militarily, given Israel’s superior military capabilities. Instead, it aimed to inflict significant damage on Israel, making it more amenable to negotiations.
- The war achieved its objective by bruising Israel and pushing it towards the negotiating table.
- As a result of the conflict, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt under the 1978 Camp David Accords.
- The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which followed the war, marked a historic moment as it was the first instance of an Arab country officially recognizing Israel as a state and establishing diplomatic relations.
- The Yom Kippur War played a crucial role in paving the way for peace between Egypt and Israel, reshaping regional dynamics.
- The Yom Kippur War did not bring favorable outcomes for Syria. Israel ended up occupying more of the strategically significant and fertile Golan Heights plateau, a territory it continues to hold to this day.
- Syria’s attempt to regain control of the Golan Heights during the war was unsuccessful, leading to a continued state of conflict and territorial dispute with Israel.
-Source: Indian Express
ISRO updated that a Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) was performed on India’s first solar mission Aditya L1.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Aditya-L1
- What is Lagrange Point 1?
- Aditya-L1 is India’s first solar mission to study the Sun designed and to be built in collaboration between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and various Indian research institutes.
- It is planned to be launched on the PSLV-C56 and it is now planned to be a comprehensive solar and space environment observatory to be placed at the Lagrangian point L1.
- The Aditya-L1 mission will be inserted in a halo orbit around the L1 point, which is about 1.5 million km from Earth.
- Aditya-L1 will be able to provide observations of Sun’s photosphere, chromosphere and corona.
- Aditya L1 will be ISRO’s 2nd space-based astronomy mission after AstroSat, which was launched in 2015.
Objectives of Aditya-1
- One of the major unsolved issues in the field of solar physics is that the upper atmosphere of the Sun is 1,000,000 K (1,000,000 °C) hot whereas the lower atmosphere is just 6,000 K (5,730 °C).
- In addition, it is not understood how exactly the Sun’s radiation affects the dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere on shorter as well as on longer time scale.
- The mission will obtain near simultaneous images of the different layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, which reveal the ways in which the energy may be channeled and transferred from one layer to another.
- Thus, the Aditya-L1 mission will enable a comprehensive understanding of the dynamical processes of the Sun and address some of the outstanding problems in solar physics and heliophysics.
What is Lagrange Point 1?
- Lagrange Points, named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system (like the Sun and the Earth) produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.
- L1 refers to Lagrangian/Lagrange Point 1, one of 5 points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system – which is about 1.5 million km from Earth, or about 1/100th of the way to the Sun.
- A Satellite placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/ eclipses.
- The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
-Source: The Hindu