Press Freedom Day: India's Internet Freedom Record Worsens

by GoNews Desk 4 weeks ago Views 1505
International Federation of Journalists
This year’s World Press Freedom Day comes stamped by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when media is bringing, at great risk, vital information to a world in lockdown, it also carries upon it the weight of oppression, censorship, and internet shutdowns. Sadly enough, India has slipped in its freedom of the press standing as a democracy, and has now even been labelled as the ‘internet shutdown capital of the world’.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Press Freedom Report 2019-20, by March 2020, the total number of internet users in the Asia region was estimated at 2,300 billion, which represents around 50 percent of the world’s internet population, covering 55 percent of the world’s total population.

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In terms of internet freedom in South Asia, the IFJ report cites Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka as ‘partly free’ and Pakistan as ‘not free’.

Attack on journalists

“In all of South Asia, there is widespread censorship, takedowns and blocking of content, persecution of journalists and bloggers, the hounding and arrests of citizens who voice opinions on social media platforms and prolonged internet shutdowns in conflict areas or in times of conflict”, says the report.

It says in India, called the internet shutdown capital of the world, internet freedom is marred by repeated internet shutdowns, censorship, surveillance and arrests for social media posts.

Protest against internet ban

“The Indian Government continued to lead in takedown of content from social media networks and internet sites. In January, video sharing site TikTok released its first transparency report and said that India’s takedown requests surpassed those

of the United States”, the IFJ report states.

Similarly, Facebook has also claimed in a Transparency Report that there has been a huge increase in emergency requests asking for information about users in the year 2019.

Twitter and Google have also spoken of increasing applications on user information by India.

Alongside India, other South Asian countries also do not fare well in freedom of expression on the internet.

In Bangladesh, several journalists and writers have been arrested under the recently-passed Digital Security Act, 2018.

Apart from this, the Bangladesh government also possesses the technology through which it can block any type of online content.

In the past two years, Bangladesh has blocked 22,000 websites, among which most were related to pornography and gambling.

However, several activists say that among these were websites which used to criticize the government.

In Pakistan over eight lakh websites and over 12,000 Facebook posts were banned.

There were several reasons given for blocking these websites and posts, such as their being ‘anti-religious, obscene and critical of the government and the army’. Apart from this, internet shutdowns and strict government surveillance are also in place in the country.

Troubled by this, Facebook, Google and Twitter even formed a front named the Asia Internet Coalition and in a letter to Pakistan PM Imran Khan, said that if things remain the same, they will stop operations in the country.

In the Maldives as well, in the recent past, there has been an increase in murders of bloggers and disappearance of journalists.

The government believes that hatred is being spread through the internet and it is acting ‘like poison in society’.

In the guise of addressing issues such as hatred and national security, the freedom of the press and the internet has been dealt a blow in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bhutan as well.

 

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