"G7 accommodates Indian stand on Internet curbs"
Internet freedoms are subject to national security, said government sources, claiming that India’s tough negotiations on the joint press release announcement issued by G7 and Guest Countries at the session on Open Societies, had ensured that the original language criticising “Internet shutdowns” had been amended to include New Delhi’s concerns.
The manifestation came after the ‘G7 and Guest Countries: 2021 Open Societies Statement’ referred to “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” which indirectly addresses Internet shutdown in various parts of the world including India.
Kashmir has experienced this Internet and mobile telephony shutdown since Article 370 was amended on August 5, 2019. Similar communication shutdowns were also seen in Delhi and Assam during the protests against the CAA during 2019-2020 and the farmer’s protest last year's January. Communication shutdown were also witnessed in other parts of the world including Hong Kong where a protest against Chinese security laws escalated during 2019. The G7 statement also took note of developments in military-ruled nation that is Myanmar as well as in larger economies.
“We are at a critical phase, facing threats to freedom of speech and democracy from rising authoritarianism, electoral interference, corruption, economic coercion, manipulation of information, including disinformation, online harms and cyber attacks, politically motivated Internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism,” declared the statement referring to the problems facing the democratic nations.
The proclamation in the statement appears to touch upon several issues that are sensitive in nature as they are often subjected to public debate in India. Sources indicate that the mention of the topics in the statement took place in the backdrop of sustained exchange of opinion between G7 member nations and Indian teams. Government sources told that “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” clarified that national security and public order concerns are an exception to the need for Internet freedoms.
According to the sources, during External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar's visit to London in early may, had fielded several questions about the government’s actions against protestors and the clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir after August 5, 2019 after the abrogation of article 370..
The sources told that Mr. Jaishankar had “made it very clear” that law and order concerns were important and public safety had to be prioritised when regulating flow of information for peace. He also had faced specific questions about the Internet shutdown for months in Jammu Kashmir as well as during the Republic Day protests by farmers in Delhi this year. Mr Jaishankar had attended the meetings virtually as he was under quarantine in London after some officials tested positive for covid-19.
The G7 Foreign Ministers level statement issued earlier in May, however, had also mentioned about “Internet shutdowns” as a subject that the organisation is aiming to counter and discuss.