Protesters are seen near New Delhi, India, on January 29, 2021. CPJ recently joined a statement calling on Indian authorities and social media companies to maintain open access to information during protests. (Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

CPJ joins calls for tech firms and Indian government to ensure free access to information

The Committee to Protect Journalists today joined nine other human rights and free expression groups in a statement urging social media platforms to respect human rights, and for the Indian government to withdraw new regulations that could stifle free speech online.

The statement listed some of the Indian government’s recent efforts to silence criticism and censor information related to protests and political opposition movements, including internet shutdowns at protest sites, preventing journalists from entering protest locations, filing baseless criminal charges against journalists, and pressuring social media companies to block critical content.

New regulations imposed in February under the Information Technology Act allow for greater government control over online content, threaten to weaken encryption, and would seriously undermine rights to privacy and freedom of expression online, according to the statement, which called on social media companies to ensure that they are imposing the lightest possible restrictions required to legally operate in the country.

The organizations call for the Indian government to reform the Information Technology Act, strengthen due process requirements that must be met before blocking online content, drop investigations into journalists over their work, and to refrain from imposing internet shutdowns.

Read the full statement here.