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Internet Shutdowns Dangerous for Democracies, Should Be Stopped Immediately, Says UN

Internet Shutdowns Dangerous for Democracies, Should Be Stopped Immediately, Says UN

The UN called on countries to stop imposing internet shutdowns or disruptions, warning Thursday that they can have dire and even deadly consequences.

In a fresh report, the UN rights office warned that “the dramatic real-life effects of shutdowns on the lives and human rights of millions of people are vastly underappreciated.”

“Hospitals being unable to contact their doctors in cases of emergency, voters being deprived of information about candidates, handicraft makers being cut off from customers, and… peaceful protesters who fall under violent attack being unable to call for help” can be just some of the impacts when internet and telecommunications services shut down, it said.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet pointed out in a statement that such shutdowns are happening at a time when the digital world has become “essential for the realisation of many human rights.”

“Switching off the internet causes incalculable damage, both in material and human rights terms.”

The first major internet shutdown that captured global attention took place in Egypt in 2011, during the Tahrir Square demonstrations, and was accompanied by hundreds of arrests and killings.

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“Since that time, we’ve just seen this proliferate across the globe,” Peggy Hicks, head of the rights office’s thematic engagement division, told reporters.

  • ‘Dangerous for democracy’ –

That is particularly concerning since such shutdowns often appear to be accompanied or followed by serious rights violations, including the undermining of the freedom of expression, but also arbitrary arrests and killings.

Hicks pointed to Iran’s internet blackout in 2019 as authorities cracked down on nationwide protests, the internet shutdown amid demonstrations over Belarus’s contested 2020 elections, and repeated shutdowns since Myanmar’s…

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