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Speaking Truth: Power of Voice

The digital world is full of opinions, positions, pronouncements. Truth can become a casualty. Whose voice is being heard? Power to voice from the margins, the excluded, subaltern and the invisible can only be enhanced if ‘truth’ is not compromised, exaggerated, distorted or camouflaged, writes Rajesh Tandon, Founder-President, PRIA.

The disruptive overdrive of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ over the past six months has dominated popular conversations. Digital world is full of opinions, positions, pronouncements about various aspects of politics and economics, without the requirement to justify evidence or source. Social media platforms have been facing public and political ire lately, as accusations made over such platforms acquire validity on its own, without appeal to source, reference or reality.

Truth does become casualty, even if it is part subjective, and coloured with world-views.

This phenomenon has afflicted social movements, civil society and international networks, aiming to advance common good. But, ‘dramatised’ and somewhat exaggerated portrayals of hunger, violence, mal-nutrition and pollution have also been made in the past to secure funds for these causes. A recent case of Greenpeace in Canada illustrates this problematique (National Post, Canada March 3, 2017).

Greenpeace has been campaigning against Canada’s logging company Resolute Forest Products as a ‘forest destroyer’. This has obviously affected company’s reputation and markets. The company filed a law suit against Greenpeace last year alleging that Greenpeace’s repeated attacks on the company amounted to criminal activity. When asked to file a response, Greenpeace said that ‘it never intended people to take its words about Resolute’s logging practices as literal truth, and it is obvious rhetoric’.

While this lawsuit will find some outcome, the implications of such an approach on the long-term credibility and respect for such a well-known environmental civil society organisation are huge. More than that, it has serious repercussions on the claims and campaigns of other civil society efforts nationally & internationally.

Voice from the margins, the excluded, sub-altern and the invisible contexts, communities, people and perspectives is a powerful element in maintaining, sustaining & deepening democracy. That voice needs to be empowered, amplified and heard continuously.

Power to that voice can only be enhanced if ‘truth’ is not compromised, exaggerated, distorted or in any way camouflaged. This is the responsibility of civil society towards ensuring democratic governance locally, and globally.


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