UN urges Indian govt to revoke social media ban in IHK

UN urges Indian govt to revoke social media ban in IHK: United Nations human rights experts have urged the government of India to remove the ban on social media and mobile internet services in Indian-held Kashmir.

Raising an alarm over the effect of the bans imposed by the Indian government in the disputed valley, the UN experts want authorities to pursue democratic channels to address the region’s social and political conflicts.

Social media websites and messaging apps, including 3G and 4G mobile services were banned for one month. “The services were being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements”, said government.

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said in a statement on Thursday that the ban had “disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir” and had the “character of collective punishment”.

Such restrictions “fail to meet the standards required under international human rights law to limit freedom of expression,” Kaye wrote.

Forst said such a ban “disrupts the free exchange of ideas and the ability of individuals to connect with one another and associate peacefully on matters of shared concern”.

“[The ban] is to control the political space. The government is trying to control things in a military way which is not going to help,” said Gull Mohammad Wani, a professor and political analyst.

“The government is claiming it has taken this step to calm the situation down. In the absence of social media, rumours can be more dangerous, as we have seen in the past.”

Indian police and paramilitary officials accuse agitators of using social media to instigate violence.

The UN special rapporteurs said there were at least 31 reported cases of social media and internet bans since 2012 in Kashmir and called it “a worrying pattern aimed at curbing protests and social unrest in the region.”

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