Pakistan urges Twitter to restore its accounts in India
Pakistan has urged social media website Twitter to restore its official accounts banned in India, terming the move by New Delhi as alarming and in violation of international norms.
Several Twitter accounts, including that of Pakistani missions aboard, were withheld in India at New Delhi’s request.
The Foreign Office confirmed that the official Twitter handles of Pakistani missions in Iran, Egypt, Turkey and the United Nations were banned in India. In addition to these bans, the official Twitter handle of state-run Radio Pakistan was also withheld in India. Several other social media accounts, including Indian journalists critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s policies, were also banned.
Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said Pakistan was deeply concerned over the Indian move. “Diminishing space for plurality of voice and access to information in India is extremely alarming,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday.
He said the social media platform must abide by the applicable international norms. “We are urging Twitter to restore immediate access to our accounts and ensure adherence to democratic freedoms of speech and expression.”
The hardline Modi government has launched a crackdown against its critics, arresting activists and journalists.
Prominent Indian journalist and Modi critic Rana Ayub’s Twitter handle was also blocked in India as well as columnist CJ Walerman’s account in India. Both have been staunch critics of the Modi government’s policies, particularly targeting the Muslims in the country.
The international human rights bodies have denounced the Indian move, expressing concerns over the shrinking space for freedom of expression in the so-called world’s largest democracy.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the Indian move, saying the blocking of accounts of Rana Ayub and Walerman were part of the new “trend of unacceptable censorship on social media”.
“This must stop! Journalists voices are essential for democracy,” the CPJ demanded in a statement.
A top Pakistani diplomat has urged the G-7 industrial countries, which are meeting at summit level in Germany, to demand of India to lift its “massive restrictions on information”, including all the Pakistan accounts New Delhi has blocked.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Ambassador Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, pointed out that India, “in another display of hypocrisy,” had signed a G7 statement to “protect freedom of expression online and offline.”
“Now,” he added,” the G7 have the right and responsibility to demand that India lift its massive restrictions on information including all the Pakistan accounts Delhi has blocked”.
India directed Twitter to locally censor accounts and dozens of posts, including some referencing a report that mentioned the country’s declining internet freedoms, the social media platform confirmed to AFP Tuesday.
Premier Modi’s administration has been accused of stifling criticism, with rights groups sounding the alarm over growing curbs on freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy.
Last year, the government ordered Twitter to take down tweets by the US think-tank Freedom House that had discussed the detention of Indian citizens for questioning government policy on social media, and the use of internet shutdowns to stifle dissent.
The tweets were no longer available in India as of this week, along with several accounts representing Pakistan’s government that had been flagged by India.
Twitter said in a statement to AFP that the removals were “limited to the specific jurisdiction/country where the content is determined to be illegal”.
Source: The Express Tribune