‘Internet curb, a threat to Democracy’: India signs joint statement at G-7 for freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in two sessions on the second day of the G7 Summit’s Outreach Sessions, titled “Building Back Together—Open Societies and Economies” and “Building Back Greener: Climate and Nature.” 

The Prime Minister was invited to appear as a Lead Speaker at the session on Open Societies, and he noted that democracy and freedom were part of India’s civilizational spirit. He highlighted numerous Leaders’ concerns that open societies are particularly vulnerable to disinformation and cyber-attacks, and emphasised the importance of ensuring that cyberspace is used to advance democratic principles rather than to subvert them. PM advocated for multilateral reform as the best signal of commitment to the cause of Open Societies, highlighting the non-democratic and unequal characteristics of global governance structures. At the conclusion of the summit, the leaders adopted the “Open Societies Statement.”

In a session on climate change, the Prime Minister stated that countries acting in isolation will not be able to maintain the planet’s atmosphere, biodiversity, or oceans, and called for collective action on climate change. He emphasised Indian Railways’ promise to attain Net Zero Emissions by 2030 when speaking about India’s steadfast commitment to climate action. India is the only G-20 country on track to meet its Paris commitments, he stated. He also remarked on the growing effectiveness of India’s two key international projects, the CDRI and the International Solar Alliance. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of developing countries having better access to climate finance and called for a comprehensive approach to climate change that addresses all aspects of the problem, including mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, climate financing, equity, climate justice, and lifestyle change.

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One of the challenges to freedom and democracy, according to the declaration, is “politically motivated internet shutdowns.” Modi also emphasised the importance of ensuring that “cyberspace remains an outlet for furthering democratic principles, not for subverting them,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The G-7 countries, as well as India, South Korea, Australia, and South Africa, signed a joint statement dubbed “Democracies 11” by host British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

While the statement is aimed at China and Russia, India has been criticised for Internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, even as the government battles tech giants like Twitter over new IT rules. Twitter described a police search at its Indian offices last month as a “potential threat to freedom of expression.” 

  “We are at a crossroads, with rising authoritarianism, electoral meddling, corruption, economic coercion, information manipulation, including disinformation, online harms and cyber-attacks, politically motivated internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism all posing threats to freedom and democracy,” according to the G-7 joint statement.

New Delhi is said to have signed off on the statement after making its misgivings known to the G-7 negotiators. “Open societies and personal freedoms require careful nurturing,” stated External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who spoke at the G-7 Foreign Ministers conference in May. Fake news and digital manipulation must be avoided.”

“Human rights for all, whether online and offline, as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents, and opposition to any kind of discrimination, so that everyone can participate completely and equally in society,” according to the “open societies” declaration. Democracy, it stated, involves “every citizen’s right to vote in free and fair elections, as well as everyone’s freedom to peacefully assemble, organise, and associate under a system of responsible and transparent governance.”

It also pledged to “strengthen open societies around the world by safeguarding civic space and media freedom, fostering freedom of expression, assembly and association, and religion or belief, and combating all kinds of discrimination, including racism.” These are significant pledges for India, given global anxiety over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed by Parliament in 2019.

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Another G-7 declaration, which India and other outreach countries did not sign, slammed China for violating “human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as unilateral measures to alter the South China Sea status quo. It also demanded that the WHO conduct a transparent and timely Covid origins research in China.

Modi also gave a speech session titled “Building Back Greener: Climate and Nature” on the second day of the outreach events. He urged for reform of the multilateral system as the best statement of dedication to the cause of Open Societies, citing the non-democratic and unequal characteristics of global governance organisations, according to the PMO.

The Prime Minister stated during the session on climate change that countries acting in isolation will not be able to protect the planet’s atmosphere, biodiversity, or oceans, and called for collective action on climate change. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of improving access to climate finance for developing nations, and he called for a comprehensive response to climate change that includes mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, climate funding, equity, climate justice, and lifestyle change.

Open Society

Henri Bergson, a French philosopher, coined the word “open society” in 1932 to characterise a dynamic structure oriented toward moral universalism. Bergson differentiated between an open society and a closed society, which he defined as a closed system of law, morality, or religion. It is immobile, as if it were a locked mind. Bergson claims that even if all evidence of civilization vanished, the closed society’s inclinations for including or rejecting outsiders would persist.

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During World War II, the Austrian-born British philosopher Karl Popper expanded on the concept of an open society. Popper saw it as part of a historical spectrum that spanned the organic, tribal, or closed society, the open society (characterised by a critical attitude toward tradition), and the abstract or depersonalised society, which was devoid of any face-to-face contact exchanges.

Sanjana Simlai

Hey, this Sanjana. Am from Kolkata. Reading, writing and travelling have always attracted me. I am always ready to learn and look forward to opportunities that would enhance my career in Journalism. I spend my free time in clicking pictures with my Nikon DSLR and I find solace in poetry.

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