From Internet Blackouts to Violent Attacks

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In 2017, South Asian nations confronted developing challenges regarding internet freedom, censorship, and freedom of expression. The Global Voices South Asia group highlighted many of these issues this year. Here is a summary of our coverage.

Internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns and blackouts in conflict areas rose sharply in 2017, threatening citizens’ access to communications, statistics, and online expression. Unique regions of India and Pakistan noticed both overall shutdowns and partial shutdowns (e.g., mobile information networks). The shutdowns, not simplest, decrease the rights of freedom of expression specified in these nations’ constitutions; they also have economic implications affecting business and public services.

The Global Voices Advox Netizen Report noted that net blackouts are becoming an increasingly common tactic for neighborhood and regional authorities while confronted with public consternation around politics and elections, ethnic and nonsecular tensions, and incidents of violence.

Since January 1, 2017, there have been sixty-five nearby-stage Internet shutdowns in India. In 2016, there have been 31 such shutdowns. The Software Freedom Law Centre of New Delhi has an interactive Internet map that indicates the place and information of every Internet shutdown in India, briefly describing public occasions coinciding with the shutdown.

According to information furnished using the virtual rights organization accessnow.Org, in January 2016, Pakistan had ten digital blackouts. A mobile net carrier was closed down for over a year in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), beginning in June 2016, in step with a Freedom House document.

When we examine the info on those shutdowns, we discover diverse motives. Internet and cellular services were shut down for several days inside the northern Indian states of Haryana and Punjab following a court ruling in the criminal case against guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the arguable leader of the highly famous Dera Sacha Sauda sect.

Last April, in the Indian metropolis of Kendrapara, provincial officials blocked Internet connectivity for forty-eight hours to prevent the flow of an “objectionable” video that witnesses stated became insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.

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Censored: News websites, tweets, and Bollywood ripoffs
Internet filtering and blockading of specific websites were not unusual devices for regulators and governments in numerous South Asian nations. In most instances, the intention changed to get admission to politically touchy content. Authorities regularly mentioned national safety as the reason for blocking off. The blocking and filtering of the global Internet violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants every person the proper “to search for, get hold of and impart records and ideas via any media and irrespective of frontiers.”

In April, the Indian government-administered Kashmir blocked 22 social media programs, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. According to the government, the social media services had been “being misused through anti-countrywide and anti-social elements” inside the Kashmir Valley to disturb “peace and quietness.”

Even Bollywood gave the motive for online censorship in August 2017. The Internet Archive and more than two hundred file-sharing websites have been blocked in India following court docket orders issued by the Madras High Court inside the Indian state of Tamil Nadu (reachable here and here). The ruling, issued on August 2, 2017, was based totally on the petitions of outstanding Bollywood manufacturing homes, Red Chillies Entertainment and Prakash Jha Productions, to stop record-sharing websites from distributing pirated copies of these days released Bollywood films, “Jab Harry Met Sejal,” and “Lipstick Under My Burkha.”

In two separate requests, dated 16 August and 24 August, Indian authorities asked Twitter to suspend more than a dozen Twitter accounts and censor more than 100 tweets.

Shortly after that, Twitter notified the account holders and asked them to voluntarily do away with the questionable content material, cautioning that Twitter may, in any other case, be obliged to take action regarding the content diagnosed within the grievance.

Early this 12 months, Sri Lanka enacted the Right to Information Act. On November 8, 2017, the impartial news internet site LankaeNews was blocked by all internet provider vendors in Sri Lanka. Three independent news websites in Sri Lanka filed requests in keeping with the RTI Act so that you can get more records about the blocking technique. the Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC) discovered that 13 websites were blocked in 2015, and the paper trail results in the highest tiers of the government. The websites included political news and pornographic material.

Violent threats in opposition to bloggers and media workers

Several newshounds, bloggers, and media people hhavebeen killed in some of the South Asian nations. As many as nine Pakistani bloggers went missingine the first week of 2017. Four of the missing activists are regarded for their secular and left-leaning perspectives. Some of the activists returned after weeks of captivity. According to media reviews, the bloggers had been subjected to torture. They made to signal agreements that they might now not be trying to find legal direction to report cases towards their abductors.

In India, activists, newshounds, and human rights defenders have confronted growing strain and prison intimidation under India’s sedition legal guidelines and Information Technology Act 2008 in current years.

Several journalists, writers, and poets have been sued for their writings. Freelance cartoonist Bala G was arrested on November five, 2017, for defaming the Chief Minister of the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu in a caricature shared on social media. On June five, 2017, India’s oldest non-public information channel, New Delhi Television Network (NDTV), recognized for its hard-hitting, anti-established order journalism, had more than one office raided with the aid of the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Veteran Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh turned into a shot dead assailant on September 5, 2017, out of the doors of her home in Bangalore. Lankesh, fifty-five, turned into the editor of a Kannada-language tabloid called Gauri Lankesh Patrick that took a fierce stance towards Hindu nationalist organizations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Hate speech in public discourse in India is developing, and Lankesh’s homicide is seen as a clean caution to the voices in India who specifically dissent that intolerance is growing.

In the Maldives, blogger and activist Yameen Rasheed was stabbed to the loss of life in his home in the capital, Malé on April 23, 2017. An outspoken critic of the authorities and radical faith-based politics, Rasheed had previously mentioned to police that he obtained loss of life threats thru textual content messages and social media for his writings. Police have said that nonsecular extremists killed Yameen Rasheed and have initiated lawsuits for a closed trial on his homicide. Rasheed’s family is pushing for the problem to be open to the public out of fear that a few pieces of evidence opposing the defendants will probably be destroyed.