New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a statement at the G7 meet to protect the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline to ensure a free and independent media landscape. This happened just a day after a report revealed that social media giant Twitter has blocked access to over 80 links, specific posts and accounts, on the direction of the Indian government.
Twitter’s disclosure to the Lumen database, an internet transparency archive, says their action was based on 24 legal directions sent by the Indian government over the year 2021. The government had reportedly asked for multiple accounts and some tweets from advocacy group Freedom House to be blocked.
The list included journalists, politicians, and supporters of farmers’ protest last year, according to a document filed by the platform on June 26.
Freedom House says it works to defend human rights and promote democratic change, with a focus on political rights and civil liberties. “We act as a catalyst for freedom through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action.”
The advocacy group calls India partly free with a score of 66 out of 100, scoring the political rights at 33 out of 40 and civil liberties at 33 out of 60. In its report specific to India, Freedom House says that the government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “has presided over discriminatory policies and a rise in persecution affecting the Muslim population.
The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi).
Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized.”
The report by Lumen says that the accounts reportedly blocked by Twitter include the Pakistan government’s handles. Twitter restricted accounts including those of Kisan Ekta Morcha and Tractor2Twitter – two accounts which had been active during farmers’ protests which went on for over a year against three farm laws, and had more than 500,000 followers.
On July 27, as part of the G7 meet that Modi is attending in Germany, leaders from Germany, Argentina, Canada, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Senegal, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union signed the 2022 Resilient Democracies statement. It said it was to “affirm our commitment to strengthening the resilience of our democracies and to working towards equitable, inclusive and sustainable solutions to global challenges, including climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, and reaffirm our commitment to the rules-based international order.”
The statement had gone on to acknowledge the importance of national laws and regulations that are in place in each country to advance the principles and values of democracy. And hailed “all courageous defenders of democratic systems that stand against oppression and violence, and will step up international cooperation to improve the resilience of democratic societies globally.”
The points in focus that the countries took a resolve to defend included the protection of freedom of expression and opinion online and offline. It had also said it would work together in enhancing transparency about the actions of online platforms to combat violent, extremist and inciting content online in line with the Christchurch Call to Action.
The Christchurch call to action was a summit initiated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardemafter the Christchurch Mosque shootings of March 15 2019. The summit aimed to “bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism”.