3 green youth movements allege digital censorship
The website LetIndiaBreathe was informed by their domain registrar that their domain was placed on hold by NIXI, which neither gave reasons for its action nor provided an opportunity for a hearing, according to Apar Gupta of IFF.Updated: Jul 16, 2020, 13:53 IST
The websites of three environmental, youth and student movements have been blocked since June 29, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) said on Monday.
These include fridaysforfuture.in, the India arm of a global climate movement started by Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg in 2018 and known widely for its school strikes against global warming; letindiabreathe.in and thereisnoearthb.com--Indian movements focused on various environmental issues including air pollution.
Two of them - Fridays For Future and Let India Breathe - have approached the Internet Freedom Foundation for legal help after they received messages from National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) which manages the operations of in. registry for the government.
LetIndiaBreathe was informed by their domain registrar that their domain was placed on hold by NIXI, which neither gave reasons for its action nor provided an opportunity for a hearing, according to Apar Gupta of IFF.
“We are seeing a spike in cases of internet censorship during the Covid-19 pandemic when the internet is one of the few mediums to engage and interact. Such blocking of websites is a violation of fundamental right to speech and expression and directive principle of the state policy on protection of environment,” said Gupta.
Fridays For Future on Monday posted a statement on its social media accounts which read: “We are a group of students and youth working advocacy on the climate crisis and ecological breakdown…we felt it was our duty to engage with the public when the draft consultation for environment impact assessment (EIA) was open and feedback was invited by the government. We launched a feedback process in fridaysforfuture.in but since July 10 2020, the website has been inaccessible.”
Incidentally, all three youth movements were running campaigns on the environment ministry’s draft EIA 2020 notification. The draft has been in the eye of a storm because it is expected to overhaul the process of environmental regulation of infrastructure projects and has contentious clauses on regularising projects that violate environmental norms and shortening the time period for public hearings.
IFF has sent a legal notice to NIXI on the issue.
“That we submit that such actions are violative of the existing Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and .IN registry guidelines as well as the fundamental rights of the collective who operate and the public participants who exercise their fundamental rights. It is specifically asserted that no specific notice, hearing or opportunity for defence has been provided till date. There is no information about any legal order… such actions smack of arbitrariness, secrecy and are prima facie illegal especially given that contact details and email addresses for the website are prominently displayed on the homepage,” the notice reads.
Yash Marwah, founder of Let India Breathe said, “We haven’t been told why our website is on hold. But since March some 2 lakh visitors have seen our website. We were running a campaign against the draft EIA 2020. We were demanding that it be replaced by a progressive law.”
Meanwhile, an official of NIXI said that they take action against a website only if asked by a law enforcement agency to do so.
“We don’t take any action on our part unless a law enforcement agency asks us to do so. I haven’t looked at the details of these cases but it should be because some law enforcement agency has directed us,” Shubham Saran, General Manager, NIXI said.
Responding to the news of blocking of websites of the three groups, RP Gupta, secretary, environment ministry, said, “ “We are not aware of these developments.”
In an interview to HT last month, Gupta had said the ministry had received 30,000 comments on the draft EIA 2020.