Internet Freedom and Human Rights

S.P. Shivani
School of Excellence in Law, The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University,
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Volume III – Issue IV, 2020

“The internet is the only window where I can look out from this detention centre.  So that  I can spend all my day inside the room: finding research for information, trying to find help outside, that is all that I can do here.”  These are the words of a Palestine refugee, Alladin Sisalem who sailed to Saiwai Island, an Australian territory in the Torres Strait in December 2001. While the asylum application of the other refugees who were sent to the Manus Island along with him was proceeding, he was notified by the Australian government officials that they did not have any application form for him. Sadly, the centre on the Manus Island was wound down in July 2003, leaving behind Alladin as the sole inmate in the centre built for 1000 asylum seekers. Only because Alladin had access to the internet, he could communicate about his existence with various journalists which built pressure on the Australian government. Eventually, Alladin was granted refugee status by the UNHCR. He was also given a five -year secondary movement relocation visa, which allowed him to live and work in Australia. This is one episode where the internet restored an individual’s human rights in the early 2000s. With the internet becoming more significant this decade, there are instances where access to the internet is seen as a human right and its denial is highly contemptuous. During the 21st and 24th sessions of the Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013, the States were reminded of their primary obligation which is to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely both online and offline.  And, in July 2018, a resolution was adopted by the Council in consensus concerned with the protection, promotion and, enjoyment of human rights on the internet. Despite the recognition, there are various instances where internet shutdowns occur in India and around the world when voices are raised against the authority. Also, people get arrested when they express their opinions online which is a violation of human rights under Article 19 of the UDHR, Article 19 of the ICCPR and domestically under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. This project is an analysis of internet freedom as a human right with the help of different incidents that we witness each day.


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