Monday February 06, 2023

India blocks Twitter accounts of Pakistani missions, other noted figures

Pakistan urges Twitter to restore immediate access to accounts and ensure adherence to democratic freedoms of speech and expression

By Web Desk
June 28, 2022
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Radio Pakistan/file
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: Radio Pakistan/file    

ISLAMABAD: In violation of the international norms, India has blocked Twitter accounts of Pakistani embassies in several cities and other journalists critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the country, it emerged on Monday night.

Deploring the Indian action, Foreign Office Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said on Twitter, “Deeply concerning that India has blocked the flow of information to Indian Twitter by withholding access to official accounts."

The Twitter accounts that were blocked in India are official handles run by Pakistan's missions in Iran, Turkiye, Egypt, and the United Nations.

“These are in addition to many others for which access has been blocked,” he added.

Expressing alarm over India blocking Twitter accounts of Pakistani embassies, the spokesperson said, “Diminishing space for plurality of voices and access to info in India is extremely alarming. Social media platforms must abide by applicable international norms.”

He urged Twitter to restore immediate access to their accounts and ensure adherence to democratic freedoms of speech and expression.

‘Accounts were blocked over legal demand’

In addition to this, the microblogging site has also withheld The News London reporter Murtaza Ali Shah’s account in India under the country’s Information Technology Act, 2000.

Indian journalist Aditya Jha announced that the Pakistani reporter's account has been blocked in India over a “legal demand” by the state of India. 

He tweeted: “Pak Journalist @MurtazaViews's account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.”

The notice from Twitter that Murtaza Ali Shah shared read: “Hello @MurtazaViews, In order to comply with Twitter’s obligations under India’s local laws, we have withheld the following account in India under the country’s Information Technology Act, 2000.”

"As Twitter strongly believes in defending and respecting the voice of the people who use our service, it is our policy to notify account holders if we receive a legal request from an authorized entity (such law enforcement or government agency) to remove content from their account. We provide notice whether or not the user lives in the country where the request originated," it read.

Pointing to the latest Khalistan Referendum voting events in Italy, the journalist said that these events have been allowed legally and governments and the law enforcement in UK, Switzerland, Italy, Europe, USA, and Canada see no crime or violation of laws in a holding "Khalistan Referendum" legitimate political activity.

Prior to this, Shah said, the Indian government reported his Twitter for reporting on Kashmir freedom protests held in London.

On both occasions, Twitter had informed Shah that no laws of Twitter were broken but that he was being informed about the reports made on his account by the Indian government.

It’s understood that the Indian government has previously forced Twitter to suspend hundreds of accounts of Khalistan leaders and supporters from across the world. 

Earlier, Twitter had also blocked accounts of certain journalists — Indian and international — who are critical of the Narendra Modi-led government.

New trend of censorship ‘unacceptable’: CPJ Asia

Reacting to withholding journalist Rana Ayyub's tweet and blocking columnist CJ Werleman's account in India, the Asia Desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CP) said the new trend of censorship on social media is unacceptable.

“This must stop! Journalists voices are essential for a democracy,” said the CPJ Asia on its Twitter handle.

“Last week @CJWerleman's account was withheld in India on the request of the Indian government for spreading ‘anti-India propaganda’,” said the CPJ.