Indian media criticise threats to YouTube comedy group

The AIB's "roast show" has received criticism and support in equal measure Image copyright AIB
Image caption The AIB's "roast show" has received criticism and support in equal measure

Most newspapers in India say the threats and protests against comedy group AIB's "roast show" have "undermined" the country's democratic structure.

The AIB recently invited Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh to its "comedy roast" filmed in front of thousands of people.

The programme was based on US-style roast shows where celebrities are abused and insulted.

The three-part series got more than eight million views within days after it was uploaded on YouTube.

Right-wing groups and Twitter users, however, objected to the show's "abusive jokes" and "below the belt" content.

Right to 'absolute freedom'

The AIB decided to take its series off YouTube after the protests, and later issued a statement.

"We can live with abuse, hate, anger, fury, rage, ignorance, bigotry and perhaps even bullying. But we don't want anybody to get hurt because of us. And we do mean anybody," the group said to defend its decision.

The AIB added that it believes "in the right to absolute freedom of expression" and wants to "be part of an environment that supports that sort of expression without fear of persecution, intimidation and most importantly, annoyance".

Image copyright YouTube/AIB
Image caption Arjun Kapoor (L) and Ranveer Singh can be seen laughing at the jokes and seem to have taken the "insults" in their stride

Most papers have backed the AIB's desire to have creative freedom.

The Times of India argues that "humour, of all kinds, is central to liberal democracy. In this case, the makers made their intentions clear and clearly labelled it as adult content".

"Those who don't like the show don't have to watch it. If political protests are allowed to interrupt creative platforms, it will not only severely restrict art but undermine Indian democracy itself," it adds.

The Indian Express says bodies like the country's film watchdog "have increasingly come to represent a dated, paternalistic worldview, in which the public needs to be guided through what it can consume".

A member of the Central Board of Film Certification had used "very offensive language" in his tweet to criticised the AIB roast's host and well-known filmmaker Karan Johar.

'Not forced to watched'

Papers also make a pertinent point that the show was uploaded on YouTube with a clear warning that it was meant for adults only.

Moreover, people always had an option of not watching the show if they were not too sure about its content.

"The point is, no one was forced to watch the video. Taking offence because it goes against 'our culture' is the kind of moral policing we must leave behind. On the tickets of the show, as well as before the YouTube videos play, there are sufficient warnings about possibly offensive comments," wrote Veena Venugopal of The Hindu.

Love 'not allowed'

Meanwhile, in some more news about intolerance of views in India, a right-wing group has warned young couples to refrain from positing "love-you messages" on social media platforms.

"Display of love in the entire Valentine's week is equivalent to not following Indian traditions. Anyone found displaying love on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp will be caught hold of. A total of eight teams have already been formed in Delhi to keep a check on social media," The Times of India quotes Chandra Prakash Kaushik of the Hindu Mahasabha group as saying.

The group said it would also monitor couples in parks, malls and other public places to stop them from "indulging in public display of affection".

And finally, former captain Saurav Ganguly believes India can do well in the upcoming cricket World Cup despite their recent defeats at the hands of hosts Australia and England.

"You need one game in one afternoon to be a star and change the situation. This team (India) under M S Dhoni have the ability to excel and I won't be surprised if India reach the final," a report in The Financial Express quotes him as saying.

The tournament will start on 14 February in Australia.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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