About five weeks from now, on August 5, the internet lockdown will complete a year in Jammu and Kashmir. This will be from a complete ban to partial lifting with 2G services.
The Internet Blackout In Myanmar
Reports have surfaced in a section of the media about the full internet access denial to a swathe of India’s citizens is affecting their lives. It also affects access to livelihood in several cases. Furthermore, it denies even exposure to crucial COVID-19 related information. Meanwhile, in Myanmar, what rights groups are calling the world’s longest internet blackout has just started its second year.
Reports from Myanmar highlight how the travails of ordinary citizens due to the communications lockdown are similar to those of J&K residents. A recent report quoted several residents said who said that traders are losing business to villagers. This forces them to make risky trips to send messages. They described an information freeze that has damaged the economy. This left them in the dark about the conflict and the novel Coronavirus.
Criticism From Human Rights Organisations
Several international rights groups and press bodies too have criticised the government for the blanket ban. Speaking to, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch warnings that the extended internet shutdown violates the right to information and speech. She also said it is hurting the COVID-19 response. Also, Myanmar’s military says it will not restore access because they have ‘seen military secrets, hate speech, and extreme nationalist postings published online. This, they believe has caused ‘more conflicts’.
In a statement published recently, HRW demanded immediate lifting of the internet restrictions in eight townships of Rakhine and Chin states as it is affecting more than a million people living in a conflict zone.
The internet shutdown, along with regulations on access by agencies, means people in villages are unaware of the Covid-19 outbreak. Local groups stated that the shutdown has made it difficult to coordinate the distribution of aid. It affected aid to conflict-affected communities, and to communicate with their field teams to ensure staff safety. Some people also said the fighting between the Myanmar military and the ethnic Arakan Army. This is making it hard for villagers to get up to date information.