A new release by The United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights calls on India to restore internet access and social media networks in the Jammu and Kashmir region, which has continually suffered from intentional internet blackouts by the Indian government. The United Nations Human Rights Council voted in 2016 to declare internet access as a basic human right. Interestingly enough, India was one of 17 countries that voted against this resolution. India’s repeated blocking of internet access in the Jammu and Kashmir region has drawn international attention as one of the worst internet blocks that we have seen in history. Over 12 million Indian citizens in the region have experienced at least 31 different internet access shutdowns. Sometimes, the government shuts down the entire internet infrastructure, sometimes just the mobile network accessibility, other times, just the social media networks. Each time the government comes down on internet access, more and more Indians discover VPN.
United Nations publicly calls on India to restore internet and social media networks in Jammu and Kashmir
Michel Forst, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, described the recently observed effects of internet shutdowns in Jammu and Kashmir:
“Denying such access disrupts the free exchange of ideas and the ability of individuals to connect with one another and associate peacefully on matters of shared concern.”
David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, was even more blunt:
“The internet and telecommunications bans have the character of collective punishment and fail to meet the standards required under international human rights law to limit freedom of expression.”
Since the netizens of the area are left without mediums for peaceful online discourse – it seems that violence continually erupts in the region as an eternal spring, which is then used as an excuse by the government to again block access to the Internet. So far, it’s been an endless cycle like this for over a year.
The Forst and Kaye concluded:
“We call on the Indian authorities to guarantee freedom of expression in Jammu and Kashmir and to seek a solution for the social and political conflicts of the region through an open, transparent and democratic dialogue.”