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Update: UN resolution condemns measures to block Internet access

Open Internet

MediaNama apologizes  for some of the factual mistakes in an earlier version of this report. 

The United Nations passed a resolution which condemned measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to information online. But it needs to be noted that resolutions like these are non-binding but will put pressure on governments to recognize the the actions of digital rights activists, as indicated by The Verge.

The resolution said that these measures are in violation of International human rights and called upon nations to cease them. (read the full resolution here).

Contrary to many reports, India had not opposed the resolution, but had supported certain amendments put forward by China and the Russian Federation regarding the language used. Article 19, a rights advocacy group, points out that the Russian Federation and China sought to change language in the draft resolution which emphasized a “human rights-based” approach to Internet access.

The resolution read: Stressing the importance of applying a comprehensive human rights-based approach when providing and expanding access to the Internet and for the Internet to be open, accessible and nurtured by multi-stakeholder participation

While the amendments read:   Stressing the importance of applying a comprehensive and integrated approach in providing and expanding access to the Internet and for the Internet to be open, accessible and nurtured by multi-stakeholder participation.

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The amendments can be read here, here and here.  Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Vietnam supported the amendments. (hat tip: Pranesh Prakash)

The resolution also expressed concern over digital divides which exist between and within countries and among men and women, boys and girls and urged countries to take measures to bridge this gap. It also highlighted the rights of persons with disabilities and called upon nations to take appropriate measures to promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technology and systems, including the Internet.

Internet bans in India

Internet blocks are increasingly becoming common in India. MediaNama has tracked 13 blanket bans on mobile Internet services in India since September 2015 with the latest incident in Barmer and Jaisalmer districts in Rajasthan. The Software Freedom Law Centre has tracked 30 incidents on Internet being cut off in since 2013.

Authorities enforced mobile Internet bans under Section 144 of the CrPC, which allows local law administration to ban unlawful assembly to maintain law an order. Banning Internet services in the wake of any social unrest is quickly turning out to become the norm in the country with more and more states imposing blanket bans at the drop of a hat. Some instances are completely arbitrary such as Gujarat government shutting down mobile Internet services for four hours to prevent cheating on phones during Revenue Accountants Recruitment Exam.

Blanket bans have started gaining steam after the Supreme Court of India upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services for maintaining law and order in February.

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– July 1st, 2016: Barmer and Jaisalmer (Rajasthan)/48 hours/Mobile Internet (link)
– June 17th, 2016: Jammu(Jammu and Kashmir)/unknown length of time/ Mobile Internet and bulk SMS (link)
June 4th 2016: Sonipat (Haryana)/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet and bulk SMS (link)
– May 17th 2016: Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh)/unknown length of time/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
– April 18th 2016: Gujarat/3 days/Mobile Internet (link)
– April 16th 2016: Jharkhand/unknown length of time/Mobile Internet (link)
– April 14th 2016: Kashmir/1 day/Mobile Internet (link)
– February 28th 2016: Gujarat/4 hours/Mobile Internet (link)
– February 19th 2016: Haryana/more than 1 day/Mobile Internet and SMS (link)
– December 20, 2015: Rajasthan/unknown/Mobile Internet (link)
– September 25th 2015: Jammu & Kashmir/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
– September 4th 2015: Manipur/2 days/Wireline and Mobile Internet (link)
– September 2nd 2015: Gujarat/ 1 week/Mobile Internet  (link)

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