The Assam government blocked internet access in the state on December 11, while the Tripura government imposed its restrictions two days earlier, on December 9. The Citizenship Amendment Bill passed India’s parliament on December 11. The Bill will allow non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to become citizens if they are fleeing religious persecution. The protests have been deadly with two protestors shot dead by police.
The internet shutdowns in Assam and Tripura joins a long list of internet shutdown imposed by Indian governments in recent years. At December 2019, the IFJ has recorded at least 83 internet shutdowns in India. The controversial shutting down of internet and communications in Indian-administered Kashmir has entered its fourth month with devastating consequences for media and civil society. In the absence of internet services, journalists face severe difficulties in uploading news online and local reporters are unable to communicate with each other.
The IJU said: “Blocking internet services is an attack on freedom of speech and expression, the right of citizens to get information and curtailing media’s freedom”.
The IFJ said: “The disturbing trend of shutdowns authorized by the Indian government as a strategy to control violence imparts a message that sees freedom of expression as a barrier to maintaining law and order. The IFJ urges the Indian government to lift these bans and reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression”.