In 2022, the world saw 187 internet blackouts – 84 from India alone Online news

More than half of those outages occurred in Kashmir, as India topped the Access Now list for the fifth consecutive year.

Authorities shut down the internet at least 187 times in a record 35 countries last year, the highest number ever in a single year. India tops the global list with 84 shutdowns, 49 of which were reported in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Those are the findings of a report released Tuesday by digital rights watchdog Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition, which says governments are using internet shutdowns as a “surveillance weapon and shield of impunity.”

Dubbed the “biggest offender”, India has topped the watchdog’s list for the fifth consecutive year. However, it was the first time since 2017 that India saw fewer than 100 internet outages, the report said.

“Authorities have disrupted Internet access at least 49 times [Indian-administered] Kashmir due to political instability and violence, including 16 consecutive orders of three-day curfew in January and February 2022,” the report said.

Around 80 percent of all blackouts in India in 2021 were in the disputed Himalayan region, compared with 58 percent in 2022, it added.

Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, which control parts of it. On the Indian side, a decades-long popular uprising against New Delhi’s rule has seen one of the highest deployments of security forces in the region.

Since 2019, when India’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir, the region has seen an unprecedented crackdown on residents and the imposition of laws and policies that critics say are aimed at marginalizing and oppressing them. the country’s only Muslim-populated region.

Srinivas Kodali, a digital rights activist and researcher on India’s free software movement, told Al Jazeera that internet blackouts in India are happening because the government can afford to block Indian-administered Kashmir.

“It is a form of repression. The government is telling people that until you step foot in it, you won’t be allowed to be part of the normal world,” he said.

Kodali said internet blackouts are also a form of “economic blockade”.

“We have heard so many stories about how the internet shutdown in Kashmir is taking away people’s right to engage in any trade and commerce online. It is not only about speech, it is also economic in nature. If it was only about the speech, the government has sufficient powers of censorship,” he said.

“So the crackdown that the government is doing with the Internet in India is not just a form of censorship but also a form of economic blockade. It hurts people a lot. People are not only censored, silenced, but economically affected.”

Other Indian regions named in the Access Now report included the states of West Bengal (7) and Rajasthan (12), both of which are governed by political parties opposed to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Authorities in those states responded to “protests, communal violence and examination disruptions that affected the daily lives of millions of people for hundreds of hours in 2022,” the report said.

Other countries that have seen large numbers of internet outages include Iran, Myanmar, Russia and Ethiopia.

“In 2022, in authoritarian regimes and democracies alike, extremists have stepped up their use of these ruthless tactics, disrupting the Internet to promote their agenda of oppression; manipulating stories, silencing voices and providing cover for their acts of violence and abuse,” said Felicia. Antonio, #KeepItOn campaign manager at Access Now, in a statement.

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