International coalition writes to Vaishnaw over net shutdown framework | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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International coalition writes to Vaishnaw over net shutdown framework

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi
Apr 07, 2023 12:18 AM IST

An international coalition of 300 organizations from 105 countries called #KeepItOn has written to Union minister for telecommunications Ashwini Vaishnaw to review India’s internet shutdown framework.

An international coalition of 300 organizations from 105 countries called #KeepItOn has written to Union minister for telecommunications Ashwini Vaishnaw to review India’s internet shutdown framework.

Union minister for telecommunications Ashwini Vaishnaw. (ANI)
Union minister for telecommunications Ashwini Vaishnaw. (ANI)

“(We)you to urge you to review the legal and regulatory framework on internet shutdowns in India,” the coalition said in its letter. “Unfettered access for all to an open, secure, and reliable internet is vital to the protection of fundamental rights in India, and to ensure that the livelihoods of increasing millions of people in India dependent on digital services and a connected economy are not disrupted.”

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HT has seen a copy of the letter.

The coalition has sought that the government conduct a thorough, transparent review of the legal and regulatory framework relating to restrictions on internet access, including the Indian telegraph Act and Temporary suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rule by inviting and incorporating feedback from all stakeholders; maintain and publish an official database on internet shutdowns and implement other rights-respecting recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and IT; comply with the directions of the Supreme Court and make all shutdown orders public, including internet shutdowns ordered in previous years; commit to revamping the legal regime and prioritising human rights; and refrain from arbitrarily hampering access to the internet.

HT reached out to DoT but didn’t not receive a response immediately.

India topped the global list of internet shutdowns for the fifth year in a row in 2022 with at least 84 disruptions, international digital rights organisation Access Now said in a report released on Tuesday in collaboration with the #KeepItOn coalition.

The report said India has accounted for approximately 58% of all documented shutdowns globally since 2016. “Authorities [last year] disrupted internet access at least 49 times in Jammu & Kashmir, including 16 back-to-back orders for three-day-long curfew-style shutdowns in January and February,” the report said.

There were 12 shutdowns in Rajasthan, seven in West Bengal, and four each in Haryana and Jharkhand. The report said the authorities “interfered with access during high-profile events such as protests, conflict, school exams, and elections”.

The letter further adds that according to one study, India suffered a loss of approximately $184.3 million on account of shutdowns in 2022, impacting over 120 million internet users, and small as well as large businesses across sectors. “In 2021, the loss amounted to nearly $583 million . A 2018 report noted that a shutdown over 10 days in a metropolitan area cost the state approximately 0.8% of the annual state GDP. And a Brookings study put economic losses in India due to shutdowns in 2016 at $ 968 million . In addition to hurting the economy at large, shutdowns negatively affect people’s livelihoods and directly contribute to loss of employment. It must also be noted that any calculation of economic loss is not likely to fully capture the impact on informal economies, the disproportionate impact on women, and the long-term effects of marketplace uncertainty stemming from unreliable internet access for businesses, investors, and consumers,” the letter states.

“Every internet shutdown is a human rights violation incompatible with democratic traditions and global leadership the Indian government aims to showcase in the year of its G20 presidency,” Ramanjit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now said. “The courts, the parliament, and the people are demanding accountability and change from the government. The impunity around internet shutdowns must end.”

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