03/01/2023, 16.33
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In 2022 India shut down Internet 84 times (more than half in Kashmir)

After fewer shutdowns during the pandemic, Internet censorship worsened substantially last year in terms of number, duration, and target groups, this according to a report by Access Now. Iran, Myanmar, and Bangladesh are among the top offenders. In India, “security” is given as the main reason with the power to shut down vested in central and state Home Affairs ministries.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India shut down the Internet 84 times, taking the top spot for the fifth year in a row, this according to a report by the #KeepItOn coalition, published by Access Now, a digital rights NGO.

According to the study, governments and other entities shut down the Internet at least 187 times last year in a record 35 countries, the highest number since the first report was released in 2016.

Not only did shutdowns increase after a drop during the pandemic, but they are lasting longer, targeting specific groups, especially when people need Internet connection the most, including during humanitarian crises, mass protests, active conflicts and wars.

India is followed by Ukraine, which shut down the Internet 22 times (in connection with the ongoing war and the presence of foreign forces on its territory), Iran (18 times), Myanmar (7) and Bangladesh (6).

In India, the Internet was shut down 49 times in Jammu and Kashmir, the highest number in all of the country's states, with 16 back-to-back orders for three-day-long shutdowns in January and February 2022.

In Rajasthan, the authorities imposed shutdowns on 12 separate occasions, followed by West Bengal, which ordered closures seven times.

Since 2016, 58 per cent of all globally documented Internet shutdowns have occurred in India.

Currently shutting down the worldwide computer network is regulated by the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules 2017.

Under these regulations, the Home Affairs Ministries, at both Union (federal) and state levels, have the power to order shutdowns.

“Last year, India shut down the Internet more than any other country on earth — 84 times,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, senior international counsel and Asia Pacific policy director at Access Now. “That’s 84 attacks on fundamental rights across the world’s biggest democracy”.

Something, however, seems to be moving in this regard; for the first time, the total number of shutdowns in India dropped below 100.

Meanwhile, in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament), the Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology expressed concern over frequent Internet shutdowns without any empirical study and slammed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for not maintaining the record of incidents and inaction on several of its recommendations.

Telecommunications operators have also raised the issue of the economic impact of shutdowns.

“Internet shutdowns also impact telcos’ business. People migrate to other services during shutdowns. There needs to be a fixed revenue model so that these losses can be compensated,” said SP Kochhar, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India.

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