India tops list of countries that forced internet shutdowns in 2020

A new report found that at least 29 countries intentionally stopped or slowed down internet communications in 2020
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According to a new Access Now report, 29 countries intentionally stopped or slowed down internet communications as much as over 150 times, with India topping the list.

Access Now is a non-profit digital rights group. The report said, “hundreds of millions were cut off in the COVID-19 pandemic, losing access to life-saving health information, education, and work opportunities.”

India was reported to be at the top of the list with the highest number of shutdowns, which started in 2019 and spilling over into 2021. There have been ongoing farmer’s Protests in which thousands of farmers participated in demonstrations on the outskirts of New Delhi for over two months, against the reforms to agriculture laws.

It was also reported that an increasing number of shutdowns occurred this year due to ongoing violence in some regions, including Myanmar, where the military overthrew its elected government last month. So far, at least 50 people have been killed in demonstrations.

Access Now reported that authoritarian regimes tend to shut the internet down in an effort to “silence protests, sway elections, hide human rights violations, and bargain with other bad actors, with the aid of companies that provide censorship technologies”.

Similarly, the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray also experienced shutdowns, where over 750 people were murdered since November 2020.

The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada reported that Ethiopians in the northern region were “totally isolated from the rest of the world” for at least three weeks. The UN reported that there remain “hurdles and a lack of communication, including internet access” in the war-stricken region.

Access Now found that Uganda ordered internet shutdowns this year as well following a presidential election, with some calling it an “internet blackout.”

The report stated that “the people most hurt by the shutdowns in 2020 were those already facing repression, silencing and marginalization. They include Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Bangladesh, Belarusians fighting for their democracy, and Ethiopians, Yemenis, and Kashmiris caught in the crossfire of communal violence and active armed conflict.”

The act of shutting the internet has been condemned heavily by the organization, which stated that doing such during a global pandemic was even more dangerous.

“Internet blackouts not only threaten people’s lives during COVID-19 and block protests and organizing, they also dismantle pathways for getting help.”

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