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Opinion: Internet restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic can be fatal

April 20, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Puja Changoiwala writes that as billions of people are confined to their homes thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, citizens around the world are being compelled to fight the pandemic without the internet. Human Rights Watch has called on India, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Bangladesh to immediately restore internet access.

The restrictions remain active even during the global Covid-19 crisis -- despite international condemnation and calls for restoration of full services from organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Such intentional shutdowns and restrictions not only violate multiple rights, but "can be deadly during a health crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic," said the New York-based rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a recent statement.

Firstly, through an information blackout, internet restrictions threaten public health by impeding access to timely and accurate information about the Covid-19 global pandemic, and best practice guidelines like shelter-in-place, social distancing and washing hands to tackle it.

Samuel Woodhams, co-author of the report and the digital rights lead at Top10VPN, told me that although governments have been citing security issues to continue with the restrictions during the pandemic, such attempts to prevent the free flow of information online are "unnecessary, disproportionate and unlikely to reduce violence or conflict. "

"Restricting access to the internet during these unprecedented times stifles the free flow of vital health information and citizens' freedom of expression. "

The Human Rights Watch organization has called on the four countries --India, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Bangladesh-- to mitigate the Covid-19 risk for millions of their citizens, and restore full access to services immediately.

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