India signs joint declaration at G-7 in favor of freedom of expression: “Internet limits threat to democracy”
India on Sunday approved a joint statement by the G-7 and guest countries on “open societies” that reaffirm and promote the values of “freedom of expression, both online and offline, as freedom which protects democracy and helps people to live free from fear. and oppression ”.
The statement also refers to “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” as one of the threats to freedom and democracy.
The “Open Societies Declaration” was adopted at the end of an outreach session titled “Rebuilding Together — Open Societies and Economies”, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited as a keynote speaker.
Participating by videoconference, Modi said that “democracy and freedom are part of the civilizational ethic of India”. However, he “shares the concern” expressed by several leaders that “open societies are particularly vulnerable to disinformation and cyber attacks”.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Modi also stressed the need to ensure that “cyberspace remains a means of advancing democratic values and not of subverting them”.
The joint declaration was signed by the G-7 countries, India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa, with host British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling them “Democracies 11”.
As the statement addresses China and Russia, India has come under scrutiny over internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir even as the government faces a showdown over its new IT rules with tech giants such as Twitter, which described a police search. in its offices in India last month as a “potential threat to free speech.”
The G-7 joint statement said: “We are at a critical time, facing threats to freedom and democracy from the rise of authoritarianism, electoral interference, corruption, economic coercion. , information manipulation, including disinformation, online damage and cyber attacks, motivated Internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism.
We learn that New Delhi signed the declaration after making its reservations known to the negotiators of the G-7 countries. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, who attended the G-7 foreign ministers meeting in May, said “open societies and individual freedoms require special attention. We must beware of fake news and digital manipulation. “
The declaration on “open societies” also affirmed “human rights for all, online and offline, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments. man, and opposition to any form of discrimination, so that everyone can participate fully and equally in society ”.
He declared that democracy includes “the right of every citizen to vote in free and fair elections and the right of everyone to assemble, organize and associate peacefully, within the framework of a system of responsible and transparent governance ”.
He also pledged to “strengthen open societies globally by protecting civic space and media freedom, promoting freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief, and combating all forms of discrimination, including racism ”.
For India, these are important commitments amid global concern over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which was approved by Parliament in 2019.
Another G-7 statement – unsigned by India and other neighboring countries – denounced China on “human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea. He also called for a transparent and timely study by the WHO into the origins of Covid in China.
On the second day of the awareness sessions, Modi also participated in another session entitled “Reconstructing more ecologically: climate and nature”. Highlighting the undemocratic and unequal nature of global governance institutions, he called for reform of the multilateral system as the best signal of commitment to the cause of open societies, PMO said.
During the climate change session, the Prime Minister stressed that the planet’s atmosphere, biodiversity and oceans cannot be protected by countries acting in silos, and called for collective action on climate change .
Speaking of India’s “unwavering commitment” to climate action, he mentioned the railways’ commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. He stressed that India is the the only G-20 country on track to meet its Paris commitments.
Modi also took note of the growing effectiveness of the two major global initiatives supported by India – the CDRI and the International Solar Alliance.
The Prime Minister stressed that developing countries need better access to climate finance and called for a holistic approach to climate change that covers mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, climate finance, l equity, climate justice and lifestyle change.