Jammu and Kashmir

Social media ban in Kashmir affects citizens’ fundamental rights, says UN report

Two experts said the restrictions ‘have the character of collective punishment’ and ‘limit freedom of expression’.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission on Thursday demanded that India “immediately end its ban” on social media networks and on mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir. Quoting two UN human rights experts, the report says the restrictions take away citizens’ freedom of expression.

“The scope of these restrictions has a significantly disproportionate impact on the fundamental rights of everyone in Kashmir, undermining the government’s stated aim of preventing dissemination of information that could lead to violence,” the experts said.

On April 26, the state government had blocked access to 22 websites – including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and YouTube – as well as mobile internet services to prevent the dissemination of provocative content. The step was part of efforts to quell the tension triggered by clashes (pictured above) between students and security personnel in the Valley.

According to David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the limitations “have the character of collective punishment” and “fail to meet the standards required under international human rights law to limit freedom of expression”.

A UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, said denying citizens such access prevents them from “connecting with one another and associating peacefully on matters of shared concern”.

Together, Kaye and Frost have appealed to the Indian government to “guarantee freedom of expression in Jammu and Kashmir” and “seek a solution for the social and political conflicts of the region through an open, transparent and democratic dialogue”.

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