Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has condemned human rights violations by the Indian Government in Jammu and Kashmir. BAKE which is part of a coalition of 66 women’s rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups, have condemned the violation of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, movement and peaceful assembly in Kashmir and Jammu, which the government has done through a blanket network and internet shutdown  since the evening of August 4, 2019.

In a statement on the Digital Rights Foundation platform, the coalition noted that the shutdowns were part of a systematic effort by the BJP-led government to silence and exclude dissent from the region. The group also noted that the current internet and network shutdown is part of a larger pattern of regular shutdowns in the disputed region. In 2019 alone 51 internet shutdowns have been imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We believe that access to communication networks, including the internet, is a fundamental human right and the current media blackout is tantamount to silencing the voices of millions of residents in Jammu and Kashmir. The right to access communication networks is an important prerequisite to the exercise to other democratic and fundamental rights, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been systematically denied these rights.”

The worrying trend, however, is the fact that the latest shutdowns have been expanded to block all communication, landline phones and cable TV in addition to the internet. Since August 4, 2019, there has been a complete media blackout on the information inside and outside the conflict-ridden valley, in violation of Article 19 of the UDHR.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 19 states that Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Due to the shutdowns, family members have been unable to reach their loved ones inside Jammu and Kashmir, Also,  freedom of movement has been severely restricted therefore thwarting the access to basic needs and services such as medical care. Businesses have suffered losses, devastating the local economy. There have also been 5,000 arrests since the communications blackout started. This has lead to further panic and anxiety in the area.

Internet shutdowns are not new to Kashmir. This is the 51st time in 2019 that access to the internet, declared a basic human right by the United Nations, has been denied in the Area. In fact, Kashmir accounts for more than 70 per cent of all government-imposed blackouts in the country.

In 2018, there were 65 internet shutdowns in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Before that, the year 2017 recorded 32 shutdowns, 2016 had 10 shutdowns, 2015 recorded 5 shutdowns and the year 2014 also clocked 5 shutdowns of mobile internet services.

The coalition has, therefore, urged urgent and strict action to be taken by the international community to address international law violations.  They have also demanded that the ban on communication network be lifted with immediate effect.

Other organizations that have endorsed the statement include:

Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS)
ASR Resource Centre
Association for Behavior and Knowledge Transformation (ABKT)
Aurat Foundation
Aurat Haq
Aurat March Karachi
Aurat March Lahore
AwazFoundationPakistan: Centre for Development Services
Baidarie
Balochistan Media Association
Beaconhouse National University Feminist Community
Bolo Bhi, Pakistan
Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF)
Center for Artificial Intelligence
Center for Cyber Security Pakistan
Center for Cyber Security Pakistan
Centre for Social Justice
Channan
Christian Muslim Peace
Combine FiOS
Courting the Law, Pakistan
Damen Support Programme
DCHD
Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Pakistan
Farmers Development Organization FDO Pakistan
Freedom Network
Girls at Dhabas
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Human Rights Defenders United for Digital Rights
Institute for Peace and Secular Studies
Institute of Research, Advocacy and development (IRADA), Pakistan
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan
Joint Action Committee
Khwendo kor
Media Matters for Democracy
Minorities Rights Watch
Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
Omar Asghar Khan Foundation
Pakistan Press Foundation
Participatory Welfare Services – PWS
Participatory Welfare Services, Layyah
Peasants women society Pakistan
Quetta City Live
Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre
Social Action Transformation of Humanity (SATH Pakistan)
South Asia Partnership – Pakistan
SPACE (Sufism for Peace & Co-existence)
Sungi
Takhleeq Foundation

Tehrik-e-Niswan
The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF)
The SAWERA Foundation

War Against Rape (WAR), Lahore
WISE
Women Action Forum Hyderabad
Women Action Forum Islamabad
Women Action Forum Karachi
Women Action Forum Lahore
Women Democratic Front
Women’s Regional Network
Youth Observatory Pakistan

International Organisations 

Afro Leadership Cameroon
Freedom Forum Nepal
Internet Sans Frontières
NetBlocks

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