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66 Rights Organisations Condemn Communication Blackout In Kashmir

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As many as 66 rights groups in Pakistan have endorsed a statement condemning the information and communication blackout in Kashmir. The groups include those pertaining to women’s rights, human rights, digital rights and feminism.

The joint statement denounced the blatant violation of the rights of freedom of expression, access to information, free movement, and peaceful assembly by the Indian government through a blanket network and internet shutdown in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir since early August.

The statement has expressed alarm over the nature and scope of this shutdown and revealed that the recent blackout is part of a larger pattern of regular shutdowns in the disputed region; in 2019 alone, a total of 51 internet shutdowns have been imposed in the occupied territory.

In the statement, it has been argued that the right to access communication networks is an important prerequisite to the exercise of other democratic and fundamental rights, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been systematically denied these rights.

The statement has also condemned the uneven application of community guidelines and content regulation by social media companies such as Twitter to silence users who were critical of the official narrative of the Indian government and were trying to amplify the voices of Kashmiris on the ground.

The statement emphasised that access to communication networks during times of conflict and political turmoil was particularly important to prevent further human rights violations and arbitrary measures.

The statement has been endorsed by human rights organisations such as Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS), Digital Rights Foundation as well as collectives such as Aurat March (Lahore and Karachi) and Women’s Action Forum (Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad). International organisations such as Freedom Forum Nepal NetBlocks, Internet Sans Frontières and Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) have also endorsed the statement.

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