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"Digital rights have taken a significant step backwards across the globe."

Faten Bushehri is the outreach and monitoring officer at Bahrain Watch, a monitoring group seeking to promote accountable, transparent governance in Bahrain. "As a member of the Bahrain Watch team, I have experience working with activists and victims who face internet shutdowns on a daily basis,"... "I promote free flow of information and freedom of expression; both rights can be violated when blocking internet access."

Faten shared her thoughts on:

Internet shutdowns experienced in Bahrain

Bahrain Watch has conducted investigative research on an internet shutdown in Duraz village in Bahrain. Beginning on June 20th 2016, the village has witnessed internet shutdowns on a daily basis from 7:00pm until 1:00am. Members of our organisation ran several experiments to test the connection in the village and found that three main providers were deliberately shutting down mobile internet services and some fixed-line connections. The investigation revealed a similar pattern across different providers that is occurring every day around the same time, which led the team to believe that the internet shutdown is potentially a result of a Service Restriction Order (SRO) from the government of Bahrain.

Her message to people about digital rights

The internet is a tool that allows for the free flow of information from and to people around the world. Having access to the internet is not the goal itself, but a means to the goal, which is a free space where information can be shared, and communication is not restricted. In modern times, the internet and digital media platforms have transformed into one of the central areas used for the realisation of fundamental human rights, namely the right to freedom of expression. As such, it is imperative that society is not arbitrarily inhibited from using the internet freely as it may impact upon these fundamental rights.

The future of digital rights

Today, digital rights have taken a significant step backwards across the globe. Repressive governments across the world have employed various methods to limit access to the internet, free expression of opinions online and the enjoyment of technology with adequate privacy. This has also extended to the developed world across Europe and the Americas. Only this year the UK government has authorised some of the most extreme forms of surveillance through the new IP Bill. This has a big effect on digital rights which in themselves are vital for the realisation of many other fundamental human rights. Activists and defenders must brace themselves for a difficult campaign in order to protect these rights and ensure their survival for future generations.

Why governments should end internet shutdowns

Governments should not interfere or have control over people’s communication methods or tools to seek information, and connect with the people that matter to them. Internet shutdowns not only affects personal lives, but also businesses, students, and any establishment that relies on internet to sustain its productivity. That being said, internet shutdowns are costly for both Telecom companies as well as subscribers who pay for interrupted services.

This article was produced as part of the Keep It On campaign. Access Now and Lush are calling on the public to fight internet shutdowns by asking world leaders to #KeepItOn. If you'd like to get involved, please sign the petition by Wednesday 7th December 2016, or take a bath with Error 404 bath bomb (all the profits from sales support Access Now and grassroots digital activists).

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