Gagging Greenpeace

R Srinivasan | Updated on January 22, 2018



Debate is the answer to dissent, not duress

India is by no means the first to use its laws to try and muzzle Greenpeace. In fact, most governments around the world which have had to face this eco group’s unique form of direct action protest, do not like Greenpeace. Perhaps the most spectacular demonstration of this came on July 10, 1985, when the French government blew up Greenpeace’s mobile protest platform, the ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, killing one Greenpeace activist in the process.

Others have not been as drastic in demonstrating their aversion to this in-your-face environmental activist group. Both Canada and New Zealand have revoked the organisation’s non-profit status, because the group’s agenda was no longer considered to be of “public benefit”. Peru launched criminal prosecution against it for damaging ancient Aztec art, known as the Nazca lines, during a protest stunt. Norway used its coast guard to tow away a Greenpeace ship which was trying to block oil drilling in the North Sea. In Japan, two activists who attempted an exposé of Japan’s alleged illegal whale meat market were arrested and tried for trespass and theft.

Greenpeace has fought long and bitter battles with GM farmers, loggers, professional fishermen and whalers, to name just a few. Corporates don’t like Greenpeace. From energy giants like BP and Shell to our own Tata Group, many companies at the receiving end of its direct action ‘protests’ have filed cases and dragged it to court.

But still, Greenpeace grows and flourishes. It is the world’s largest environment NGO today. One of the reasons perhaps is that there is very little public discussion of development and its impact on local populations. Governments do not like such debate, political parties are not interested. Greenpeace tries to fill this gap.

One may disagree with Greenpeace’s extreme stance on most issues — its total opposition to power generation from fossil fuels or nuclear, for instance — or with its methods. But using the machinery of the state to silence its particular form of dissent is not the answer.

R Srinivasan Senior Associate Editor

Published on September 04, 2015

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