A ban on usage of communication outlets, namely social media, is to be decried in any nation as it obstructs freedom of expression, which is a universal basic right even though some countries may not recognise it as so. We condemned the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority when it enforced a YouTube ban between September 2012 and September 2016. Now the Indian government has blocked the use of 22 social media websites for one month in Indian-occupied Kashmir. There is seldom respite from governmental micromanagement, especially when it comes to freedom of expression to disagree with the policies of a government here or across the border.
Although the Indian government attempted to act responsibly by claiming the recent torture video circulating on social media was unverified and undermined the interest of the state, the ban is a violation of not only the former but a violation of people’s right to seek information. We recall a similar ban by India in September 2016 in alleged attempts to suppress news coming out of Kashmir. The latest move is an attempt to curtail any uprisings, as one side of the battle wants to stop the oppression of the people of Kashmir, who will now be further isolated from the world.
It is not the role of a government to censor published information; fact checking is best left to the citizens to judge and compare information themselves. A ban on social media inhibits people from obtaining useful knowledge and different world perspectives that allow for open-mindedness and tolerance. Although India had been investigating the authenticity of the released video, it responded with this ban, citing the Indian Telegraph Act.
Social media has played monumental roles in liberating oppressed Arab peoples in 2011, and it seems the Indian government is simply trying to overturn any such ambitions of the people of Kashmir at this time.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2017.
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