India tops the list of countries with the highest number of internet shutdowns in one year, says an extensive report by digital rights and privacy organization Access Now.
India had shut down the internet as many as 109 times in 2020, which made the country top the global charts for the third consecutive year. According to the report, India, Yemen, and Ethiopia had been among the worst disruptors of the internet in 2019.
After analyzing the media reports of 2020 and the available shutdown orders, it was found that mostly cited excuses for the internet shutdowns were "precautionary measure", "impending security incident", and "stopping anti-national elements from sharing false information on social media".
The report titled "Shattered dreams and lost opportunities: A year in the fight to #KeepItOn," also pointed at the problematic nature of the Indian government's delay and denial in being transparent and publishing information on the shutdowns. The shutdowns in India were mostly targeted at the Jammu & Kashmir region and sites of protests.
"We've lived through targeted blackouts in Jammu and Kashmir for years, and watched shutdowns spread to every part of the country, and increasingly being used to target peaceful protestors and hide the actions of government authorities. People in India live in precarity. This is not on par with international human rights standards, nor is it in line with the progressive facade of the Union Government's Digital India mission," said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now.
The report also provides an in-depth analysis of internet shutdowns in various countries and regions like Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, Belarus, and in Chin and Rakhine states of Myanmar, where shutdown has been going for the past two years.