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India is still largest offender as global internet shutdowns surged in 2021




For the fourth year in a row, the largest number of internet shutdown incidents were documented in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and around the Farmers’ Protests, followed by Myanmar.

Internet shutdowns made a comeback in 2021, with India responsible for more than half of them, a new report has found.

Published by digital rights group Access Now, the report found that after a year of relative respite in 2020, when it tracked 159 shutdowns worldwide, authorities worldwide disrupted the internet 182 times in the following year. India was responsible for 106 of the documented incidents. According to the data, 34 countries imposed internet shutdowns last year.

The report says most of the shutdowns were imposed to silence critical voices or control the flow of information during elections and in active conflict areas.

The second biggest offender after India was Myanmar, which imposed 15 shutdowns, followed by Sudan and Iran with five shutdowns each.

Seven countries that had never shut down the internet before joined the trend of cracking down on the internet during key political events. These were Burkina Faso, Niger, Palestine, Senegal, South Sudan, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), and Zambia.

“What could have been a story about the global decline of internet shutdowns after the pandemic instead reveals a return to the rights-harming tactics of the pre-pandemic period. And these tactics are spreading,” wrote the report’s authors. They argued that it constitutes “yet another warning sign of the rise of digital authoritarianism across the globe.”

The biggest offenders are in the Asia-Pacific region

The report documented at least 85 internet shutdowns in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir in 2021, mostly as part of “counterterrorism measures” by the central government. India also shut down the internet in response to the Farmers’ Protests, a mass movement against controversial agricultural reforms the government had introduced the previous year.

“An internet shutdown is not a solution — it is a disproportionate, collective punishment that violates human rights and is unacceptable in a 21st-century society,” Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now, said in a statement.

In Myanmar, the military junta shut down the internet at least 15 times throughout the year, with the longest nationwide shutdown lasting 2.5 months. After the military takeover in February 2021, internet shutdowns were used to block the reporting of air strikes in rebel areas, the burning of civilian homes, and extrajudicial killings and arrests.

Longest shutdowns 

The longest internet shutdown has been taking place for four years (2026 days) in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). The government restricted full mobile networks following its conflict at the border with Afghanistan, only restoring access in December 2021.

Another case of a prolonged internet blackout is in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the ongoing shutdown began in November 2020. As the conflict spilt over to its neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, the shutdown affected those areas as well.

A sign of what was to come

The only country to shut down access to communication platforms in Europe in 2021 was Russia, with censorship tactics have been progressively escalating, the report says.

These include, for instance, so-called “throttling,” an intentional slowdown of internet speed which the Russian government imposed on Twitter after it refused to take down content flagged by the authorities. The authorities have also blocked VPNs and filed lawsuits against tech companies such as Apple and Meta. After the war with Ukraine began, Russia toughened its laws to crackdown on dissent, criminalising what the government calls “fake news.”

“Internet shutdowns and the rise of authoritarianism go hand-in-hand,” said Marianne Diaz Hernandez, a fellow at the organisation’s #KeepItOn campaign. “In 2021, governments across the globe proved how powerful blackouts can be as all-in-one tools to assert control over populations.”

Source: TRT World


UN Ocean Conference: Joint effort needed to combat plastic pollution





Twenty-one new governments announced they will join the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment at the UN Ocean Conference on June 27, further boosting the leadership on tackling plastic pollution.

Established in 2018 and led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Commitment has united more than 500 signatories including businesses, governments and other organizations to drive the transition towards a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste.

Plastic is everywhere in our lives, but after we use it, it ends up in the ocean. At least 11 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year, according to the UN, making up 80 percent of all marine debris.

Plastic pollution can have a serious impact on the entire marine ecosystem. Plastic entangles animals and is ingested by marine species. More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution, according to the UN. Plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish each year.

Workers hang a The UN holds its Oceans Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, June 27-July 1. /VCG

Switching from virgin plastic to recycled plastic is one of the most effective ways to reduce plastic pollution. However, less than 10 percent of the plastic used around the world is recycled, said the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on February 22.

Instead of recycling plastic, more greenhouse gases are emitted each time virgin plastic or single-use plastic is produced, used and disposed. According to projections by UNEP, by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal, would account for 15 percent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As greenhouse gas emissions increase, the planet will become hotter, and the oceans will also be seriously affected, by phenomena such as sea level rise and ocean temperature rise.

As glaciers melt and sea levels rise, animals are losing their homes. /VCG

Plastic pollution is one of the major global environmental problems, which brings great challenges to global sustainable development. It is estimated that the annual amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean could triple by 2040, according to the UN.

Many countries have issued a number of plastic pollution control policies, and more and more of them have passed some sort of full or partial ban on plastic bags.

India imposed a ban on single-use plastics on items ranging from straws to cigarette packets to combat worsening pollution in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people on July 1. Canada will impose a ban on the manufacture and import of single-use plastics by the end of the year.

China has always attached great importance to the control of plastic pollution. As early as 2007, policies were introduced to restrict the production, sale and use of plastic bags. China pledged to substantially extend its laws to combat plastic bag use, first banning all non-compostable bags in major cities by the end of 2020 and extending the ban to the entire country by 2022.

Plastic pollution is a major global environmental problem. /VCG

It’s urgent for all countries to work together to combat plastic pollution.

In March this year, a historic resolution was adopted by countries at the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly. It calls for the convening of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop – by the end of 2024 – an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

Source: CGTN

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Gov’t does not obstruct freedom of expression: Speaker





Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed has stated the administration of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih does not obstruct freedom of expression. He made the statement in response to a question at the fifth programme of the Ask Speaker series.

Speaking at the programme, Speaker Nasheed said he has not seen President Solih’s administration try to obstruct freedom of speech and expression, and does not believe there are efforts to do so. However, the speaker stated the constitution does not grant freedom of expression without limits and boundaries. He said these boundaries must be respected, especially when it could affect diplomatic relations established with other countries.

During the programme, Speaker Nasheed was also asked if he might contest in the presidential election next year as an independent candidate after leaving the main ruling party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). In response to this question, the speaker said he hopes to remain at MDP till his last day and would definitely not be seen in another party. He said MDP has a vision for the future, and will seek ways to resolve internal conflicts and implement its development vision for the country.

During the programme, Speaker Nasheed answered questions on parliamentary work, as well as other political and social matters. The speaker highlighted the important work carried out by the parliament across the last two terms, including several important bills.


Source: psmnews

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US, Taliban discuss foreign reserves, aid for earthquake-hit Afghanistan





US and Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital Doha worked on details to preserve $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves “for the benefit of the Afghan people.”

Talks between the United States and the Taliban continued in Doha earlier this week to discuss earthquake aid, the State Department said, months after the two parties last met in the Qatari capital in March.

The Taliban is seeking a way to unlock some of the country’s foreign reserves — currently frozen by the United States — following a devastating earthquake last month, with the United States looking for assurances the money would go to help the population.

During the meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, the United States reiterated an earlier pledge of $55 million in new assistance for earthquake relief, the State Department said in a statement on Friday.

And “the two sides discussed in detail US actions to preserve $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people,” the statement said, money which the White House said last week the US was “urgently” working to sort out.

Last week’s 5.9-magnitude earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, which killed more than 1,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless, adds urgency to the funding debate.

“The United States expressed condolences for the loss of life and suffering in Afghanistan caused by recent earthquakes,” the State Department said of the meeting, which was led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West.

Fundamental freedoms

The United States raised “concerns regarding increased interference by the Taliban in the delivery of humanitarian assistance” and “concerns regarding transparency in delivery of services,” the statement said of the aid.

According to the State Department, US representatives also pushed the Taliban authorities on women’s rights — a sticking point that led Washington to cancel talks in Doha in March, when the group closed girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan.

“The United States supports the Afghan people’s demands that girls be allowed to return to school and that women be allowed to work, contribute to the country’s economic growth, and move and express themselves freely,” the statement said.

READ MORE: Afghanistan earthquake: Women in urgent need of care, doctors warn

Taliban rule

The Taliban took over in August 2021 after the United States gave up a 20-year military effort.

Washington at the time froze $7 billion in reserves and the international community halted billions in direct aid that Afghanistan and its population of roughly 40 million people had relied on.

The currency has collapsed and the country descended into a serious economic crisis, although some assistance has been restored.

The Taliban are still considered a terrorist group by the United States, which has insisted that any improvement of relations would be dependent on meeting key concerns.

READ MORE: Earthquake survivors in Afghanistan ‘at risk’ of disease outbreak

Source: TRT

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