The Internet is not just a means to gather a variety of information and make communication, but it is now a basic right. The denial of the right of use of the Internet will be a curb on freedom of press and expression.
According to a UNESCO report, India tops the list when it comes to Internet shutdown, an intentional disruption of the Internet service to control communication or online content or slowing down the access to the general public.
Between May 2017 and April 2018, there were 97 such instances of Internet shutdown in South Asian countries of which 82 cases were reported from India, said Clampdowns and Courage-South Asia Press Freedom Report 2017-18, released by the UNESCO- International Federation of Journalists. The other countries in the list were Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The report accounted all the incidents happened in the country in the past one year in which the government shutdown the Internet, justifying it as a measure to “maintain law and order.” The shutdowns were either preemptive or reactive measures in the face of mass or potential violent public protests, the report said.
In India, Kashmir Valley experienced nearly half of the cases of Internet shutdown in the country.
In a few cases, the Internet shutdowns continued in some parts of the country for over a month. For instance, in Darjeeling, West Bengal, Internet service was intentionally disrupted for 45 days due to political demonstration, protest and clashes by activists seeking a separate state.
Similarly, a 40-day Internet shutdown was witnessed in Nawada in Bihar after communal clashes. Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the disruption of mobile Internet and social media services for 31 days.
The report said that Internet shutdowns prevent journalists from freely accessing information and disseminating news and also stop citizens from accessing and sharing information, people’s right to know.
The report is alarming for a country like India which lacks Internet connectivity on a large scale.
In a report ‘Inclusive Internet Index’ published by Facebook and Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), India ranked 47th out of 86 countries when it comes to inclusive Internet and connectivity for all. In Asia, the country ranked 12th out of 23 countries in terms of connectivity.
The Internet users in the country are expected to reach 500 million by June this year, according to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB.
The figure of 500 million might sound large, but it is far from covering the entire country, which has 1.3 billion population.
The development was first reported by ET.