IGF 2021 WS #153 Error 404 - Freedom of Speech not found

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (14:45 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (15:45 UTC)
Conference Room 3

Organizer 1: Prasanth Sugathan, Software Freedom Law Centre, India
Organizer 2: Radhika Jhalani, Software Freedom Law Center, India (SFLC.in)
Organizer 3: Apurva Singh, Software Freedom Law Centre, India

Speaker 1: Radhika Jhalani, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Mishi Choudhary, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Kris Ruijgrok, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Oliver Spencer, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group 
Speaker 5: Nighat Dad, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group 


Radhika Jhalani, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Prasanth Sugathan,Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Apurva Singh, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Radhika Jhalani, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

Barriers to universal and meaningful access: What are the main challenges that people face in obtaining and making full use of Internet access? To what extent are these the result of social, economic and cultural factors, and to what extent do they result from aspects of the digital environment? How can we use the responses to these questions to better understand the intersection between digital policies and other policy areas? Can this understanding help us to develop and implement more realistic Internet-related policy goals?
Challenges and solutions in regulating spectrum: What are the relevant regulatory issues that require attention when it comes to enabling broader access to spectrum in order to stimulate dissemination of affordable and quality access at the community level?

India is leading the world in terms of the number of internet shutdowns. The state of free speech in the country is abysmal to say the least. India is in its nascent stage when it comes to developments in tech policy. South Asia has been learning from scores of internet shutdowns in India. For example during anti-CAA protests, Bangladesh shut off internet in its bordering villages, the ongoing Rakhine state internet shutdown to give a few examples. The Internet has become a public square where people from all walks of life find space to express their opinions and learn. On one hand South Asian countries are adopting new ways and measures to restrict the free access to the internet, on the other hand Civil Society organisations are making profound impact on the ground to kickstart the discussion around protection of a free internet in the digital age.

Article 370 abrogated the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, but the abrogation contrarily gave Kashmir a special status-- the longest communication blockade in the history. The state in the garb of fighting insurgency, is actually fighting transmission of ideas and information, which are imperative for democratic participation. The unprecedented frequent imposition of communication blockade in Kashmir and other areas amounts to collective punishment and a price for voicing dissent. Such network disruptions in India and neighbouring South Asian countries have also become a means of systemic discrimination and render history of violent political repressions and the existence of repressed communities living on margins, completely invisible to the outside world.

State cannot police its citizenry with network disruptions alone. To exert its political control with force, the states often deploy an array of surveillance tools to closely and extensively monitor the activities of its populace in the virtual space. The network disruptions along with surveillance measures are usually targeted at whistle-blowers, journalists, civil society organisations, activists and dissenters.

Such extreme measures of disruptions and mass surveillance in the 21st century are not limited to authoritarian states of South Asia, but have been impulsively embraced by “human rights respecting democratic nations” like India and Bangladesh. Hence, it poses as barrier to universal and basic access which is a fundamnetal need of the day especially when the entire world is grappling with Covid-19 pandemic.


4. Quality Education
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities

Targets: Access is paramount in ensuring all of the three goals. The aim of the session is to ensure foremost that access is not restricted by regimes and through lack of infrastructure. Access ensures that people of the world get quality education, they have knowledge to innovate and to understand inequalities and fight against them.


This session will focus on growing instances of restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Expression in an internet enabled world where social media intermediaries take the form of a public square for the exchange of ideas and thoughts. The Global South has been facing these increasing clampdowns by authoritarian regimes by sometimes pulling the kill switch, blocking social media platforms, online harassment of individuals, and disinformation peddling through coordinated IT cells. Authoritarian regimes have been getting creative in blocking access to the thought, ideas, and dissent sometimes by calling work of arts disintegrating and threatening. The pushback by those who uphold democratic values and believe in access and equality has to be robust and imaginative. This round table will look at developing and discussing coalitions and strategize pushbacks to counter the criminalization of dissent and provide access to thought and ideas to the common man.

Expected Outcomes

The round table aims at building an Asia Pacific coalition focusing on countering the growing efforts to curb dissent in the global south. The outcome is to build a long-term cross-border coalition that comes together to discuss strategies in fighting for the right to dissent and for the right of having stable communication channels through which timely information can reach grassroots.

The invited speakers will be representative of various nation states in Asia Pacific so as to ensure that each nation gets due representation. There will be a mix of open discussion and activities in the round table with necessary moderation. The round table will not be in form of a monolouge but it will follow the Socratic method of a dialectic where participants will be asked to weigh in. There will be lieu of activities to ensure that there is no monotony in the sessions.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Polls Breakout rooms

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Envisioning a coalition to help keep internet secure and open.