The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is deeply concerned by recent reports of ongoing information and communications restrictions in several regions of India, including the capital, New Delhi, and the states of Karnataka, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, among others. GNI is also alarmed about the ongoing communications blockade in Kashmir, which has now entered its fifth month.
These latest rounds of network disruptions in India follow mass protests across the country. While there have been numerous network disruptions in India over the last several years, the current disruptions are particularly concerning given that they are taking place across the geographical length and breadth of India. Meanwhile, the Kashmir Valley has been in digital darkness since reports of large-scale information and communications’ network disruptions emerged on August 5th. UN human rights experts have characterized the ongoing disruptions there as disproportionate and “a form of collective punishment” and called on the Government of India to end the shutdown.
International human rights law calls on states to ensure that communications restrictions are imposed pursuant to clear, precise and transparent legal frameworks, and that they are strictly necessary and proportionate to the legitimate purposes invoked to justify them. GNI has long maintained the importance of ensuring uninterrupted network access, especially during times of civil unrest, so that the public can communicate with loved ones, vital emergency and health services can function smoothly, and the media can report accurately from the ground.
GNI welcomes the December 19 interim order passed by the Gauhati High Court, in the state of Assam, recognizing the “major role” played by the internet in an individual’s daily life and directing the Government of Assam to restore network services there following an eight day-long network shutdown. GNI urges the Governments of Assam and other states, as well as the Government of India, to abide by the well-established principles and standards set out in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — a treaty that India has signed and ratified — before restricting any online content.
GNI has consistently called for greater transparency and accountability around restrictions on free expression and highlighted the severe unintended consequences of network disruptions. Learn more about GNI’s work on network disruptions.