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Systematic crackdown on critics in India: CIVICUS Monitor

India’s global rating downgraded to ‘repressed’, in same bracket as Brunei, Nigeria and Madagascar.

Sabrangindia 05 Dec 2019

Kashmir

CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, has downgraded India’s international rating to ‘repressed’, a significant step down from last year’s ‘obstructed’ rating.

As per data released in its People Power Under Attack 2019 report, assault on civil society and fundamental freedoms has persisted in Asia and particularly alarming is the “regression of fundamental civic rights, such as the freedom of speech, assembly and association, in two countries in this region: India and Brunei.”

About India, the report says, “India, the world’s largest democracy, has been downgraded to ‘repressed’. Of specific concern are attacks on activists and journalists – some who have been assaulted or killed just for doing their job.” The report also raises concerns about legislation to silence dissenters. It says, “The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about the use of restrictive laws to stifle opposition voices: students, activists and academics have all been silenced by stringent legislation. Another repressive law being enforced by the Indian government is the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which has been used to stop foreign funding and investigate NGOs that are critical of the government.”   

An Asia specific press release from CIVICUS Monitor says, “Since Narendra Modi came to power there has been a systematic crackdown on critics in India including activists, journalists and students. Over the last year his government has increased its use of restrictive laws to silence dissent while NGOs and activists are facing various restrictions including having their funding cut off and subjected to smear campaigns”.

The report says, “According to the CIVICUS Monitor’s frequent updates, sedition laws and other restrictive laws such as the National Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have been used against students, academics and activists to silence critics of the government. The Indian government has continued to use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to restrict and bar foreign funding or to investigate critical CSOs such as Lawyers Collective, a CSO co-founded by human rights defenders and lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover.”

CIVICUS also raises concerns about Kashmir saying, “India has also witnessed severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Indian Administered Kashmir since August 2019. Hundreds of political activists, human rights defenders and community leaders have been detained or put on a non-fly list and a communications blockade has been imposed.”

Civic space in 196 countries is categorized as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. In Asia, out of 25 countries, four are rated as closed, eight repressed and ten obstructed. Civic space in South Korea and Japan is rated as narrowed, while Taiwan is the only country rated open.

“Our research shows that there continues to be a regression of civic space for activism across the region. The percentage of people living in Asian countries with closed, repressed or obstructed civic space is now at 95 percent” said Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS.

Other key findings of the report are as follows:

Brunei: Brunei has also been downgraded to ‘repressed’. While fundamental freedoms have been curtailed in the country for years, the revised Sharia (Islamic) penal code that was enacted in April 2019 has further increased these restrictions by imposing the death penalty for various offences including insulting the Prophet Mohammed and punishments against individuals for publications against Islamic beliefs.

China: China continues to be the main offender as it expands its censorship regime, blocking critical outlets and social media sites. This was demonstrated in the run up to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and during the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, when the government blocked domestic coverage of these events and employed an army of internet trolls to disrupt social media narratives and control public discourse.

Nigeria: The past year saw several journalists physically attacked, arrested and judicially harassed in Nigeria. In several cases, the Cybercrime Act and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 has been used against journalists and bloggers. Several anti-government protests - such as the #RevolutionNow protests and protests of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) - have been repressed. Omoyele Sowore, organiser of the #RevolutionNow protests and publisher of the online media outlet Sahara Reporters, and student and activist Olawale AdebayoBakare, were arrested in connection with the protests, which called for good governance in Nigeria; they were charged on several counts, including treason.

Russia: Russia continues its crackdown on freedom of speech, and has introduced a law which criminalizes “disrespect” of authorities. As in previous years, the Russian authorities have rounded up human rights defenders, activists and protesters, who have then been detained or convicted.

United States: Reporters have been assaulted by security forces and demonstrators while covering protests, vilified by public figures, physically and verbally attacked and threatened. Foreign journalists have sometimes been barred entry to the US, and those publishing stories relating to immigration have been monitored.

The entire report may be read here.


Related:

Berkeley University study of Islamophobia in India highlights plight of Muslims
Modi Government’s Performance ‘Below Average’
Improved ratings? How Gujarat Babus in PMO "worked out" Strategy to Lobby with Washington Institutes: Insider

Systematic crackdown on critics in India: CIVICUS Monitor

India’s global rating downgraded to ‘repressed’, in same bracket as Brunei, Nigeria and Madagascar.

Kashmir

CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, has downgraded India’s international rating to ‘repressed’, a significant step down from last year’s ‘obstructed’ rating.

As per data released in its People Power Under Attack 2019 report, assault on civil society and fundamental freedoms has persisted in Asia and particularly alarming is the “regression of fundamental civic rights, such as the freedom of speech, assembly and association, in two countries in this region: India and Brunei.”

About India, the report says, “India, the world’s largest democracy, has been downgraded to ‘repressed’. Of specific concern are attacks on activists and journalists – some who have been assaulted or killed just for doing their job.” The report also raises concerns about legislation to silence dissenters. It says, “The CIVICUS Monitor is also concerned about the use of restrictive laws to stifle opposition voices: students, activists and academics have all been silenced by stringent legislation. Another repressive law being enforced by the Indian government is the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which has been used to stop foreign funding and investigate NGOs that are critical of the government.”   

An Asia specific press release from CIVICUS Monitor says, “Since Narendra Modi came to power there has been a systematic crackdown on critics in India including activists, journalists and students. Over the last year his government has increased its use of restrictive laws to silence dissent while NGOs and activists are facing various restrictions including having their funding cut off and subjected to smear campaigns”.

The report says, “According to the CIVICUS Monitor’s frequent updates, sedition laws and other restrictive laws such as the National Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have been used against students, academics and activists to silence critics of the government. The Indian government has continued to use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to restrict and bar foreign funding or to investigate critical CSOs such as Lawyers Collective, a CSO co-founded by human rights defenders and lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover.”

CIVICUS also raises concerns about Kashmir saying, “India has also witnessed severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Indian Administered Kashmir since August 2019. Hundreds of political activists, human rights defenders and community leaders have been detained or put on a non-fly list and a communications blockade has been imposed.”

Civic space in 196 countries is categorized as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. In Asia, out of 25 countries, four are rated as closed, eight repressed and ten obstructed. Civic space in South Korea and Japan is rated as narrowed, while Taiwan is the only country rated open.

“Our research shows that there continues to be a regression of civic space for activism across the region. The percentage of people living in Asian countries with closed, repressed or obstructed civic space is now at 95 percent” said Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS.

Other key findings of the report are as follows:

Brunei: Brunei has also been downgraded to ‘repressed’. While fundamental freedoms have been curtailed in the country for years, the revised Sharia (Islamic) penal code that was enacted in April 2019 has further increased these restrictions by imposing the death penalty for various offences including insulting the Prophet Mohammed and punishments against individuals for publications against Islamic beliefs.

China: China continues to be the main offender as it expands its censorship regime, blocking critical outlets and social media sites. This was demonstrated in the run up to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and during the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, when the government blocked domestic coverage of these events and employed an army of internet trolls to disrupt social media narratives and control public discourse.

Nigeria: The past year saw several journalists physically attacked, arrested and judicially harassed in Nigeria. In several cases, the Cybercrime Act and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 has been used against journalists and bloggers. Several anti-government protests - such as the #RevolutionNow protests and protests of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) - have been repressed. Omoyele Sowore, organiser of the #RevolutionNow protests and publisher of the online media outlet Sahara Reporters, and student and activist Olawale AdebayoBakare, were arrested in connection with the protests, which called for good governance in Nigeria; they were charged on several counts, including treason.

Russia: Russia continues its crackdown on freedom of speech, and has introduced a law which criminalizes “disrespect” of authorities. As in previous years, the Russian authorities have rounded up human rights defenders, activists and protesters, who have then been detained or convicted.

United States: Reporters have been assaulted by security forces and demonstrators while covering protests, vilified by public figures, physically and verbally attacked and threatened. Foreign journalists have sometimes been barred entry to the US, and those publishing stories relating to immigration have been monitored.

The entire report may be read here.


Related:

Berkeley University study of Islamophobia in India highlights plight of Muslims
Modi Government’s Performance ‘Below Average’
Improved ratings? How Gujarat Babus in PMO "worked out" Strategy to Lobby with Washington Institutes: Insider

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