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Documenting During Internet Shutdowns: A WITNESS Guide in English and Indonesian

This post was originally published on the Coconet website.

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In January 2020, WITNESS published on its blog an English guide to documenting during internet shutdowns. Almost a year later, all five parts of the guide was made available in Bahasa Indonesia.

Coconet.social is republishing in both English and Bahasa Indonesian the first article of the series. WITNESS Senior Manager of Programs for Asia and Pacific Arul Prakkash, who is also a member of the Coconet community, contributed to the original guide and translation to Bahasa Indonesian. 

Click here to read the article in Indonesian.


Documenting During Internet Shutdowns

In June 2019, as human rights abuses and a humanitarian crisis were continuing in Myanmar, the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communication directed telecom companies to shut down their mobile internet service in parts of Rakhine State and neighbouring Chin State. Citing “disturbances of the peace” and “illegal activities,” the Myanmar government claims to have enacted the shutdown “for the benefit of the people.” In reality, the blackout cut over a million people off from access to essential information and communication and disrupted humanitarian efforts. As Matthew Smith from Fortify Rights has stated, “This shutdown is happening in a context of ongoing genocide against Rohingya and war crimes against Rakhine, and even if it were intended to target militants, it’s egregiously disproportionate.”

The shutdown was partially lifted on five of the townships in September 2019, but is ongoing. During the same month, in neighbouring Bangladesh where many Rohingya have fled, authorities ordered mobile phone operators to block 3G and 4G services in Rohingya refugee camps and to stop selling SIM cards to Rohingya. As we enter 2020, four townships in Rakhine continue to be cut off from the world, and Bangladesh continues to limit service in the refugee camps.

Documenting During Internet Shutdowns

“Internet shutdowns and human rights violations go hand in hand."

Berhan Taye, AccessNow

Globally, internet shutdowns are on the rise. According to AccessNow’s #KeepItOn campaign, there were 128 intentional shutdowns between January – July 2019, compared to 196 in all of 2018, and up sharply from 106 in 2017, and 75 in 2016. Around the world, governments, with the cooperation of telecom companies, are increasingly turning to internet shutdowns as a strategy to repress communities, prevent mobilization, and stop information about human rights violations from being documented and shared.

Shutdowns can take various forms, including platform-specific blockages that target popular apps and sites, mobile data shutdowns, bandwidth throttling, or total internet blackouts. All of these types of shutdowns are intended to disrupt the ability to communicate information and expose violations in real-time. They often occur during protests, elections, and periods of political instability, and are often accompanied by heightened state repression, military offensives, and violence. While governments may try to justify shutdowns in the name of “public safety” or other reasons, shutdowns clearly take place at moments when repressive states fear losing tenuous control over their people, information, or political narrative. Shutdowns violate human rights, severely disrupt people’s lives and livelihoods, and also have a global economic impact.

Types of internet shutdowns. Photo from WITNESS, used with permission.
Documenting human rights violations is as important as ever during an internet shutdown. Even if information cannot be shared in the moment, documentation can be a way to preserve voices that authorities are trying to silence and to secure evidence of abuses that can be used to demand accountability later on. Of course, the repressive context and the technological impediments of an internet shutdown make documenting violations—and maintaining that documentation securely—much more challenging and risky. How can activists capture and preserve their videos during a shutdown, and even share them offline, and do so in safer ways? 

This series

Through our work with activists who have experienced internet shutdowns, we have learned some useful tips and approaches to capturing and preserving video documentation during internet shutdowns that we are sharing in this series. We wrote them with Android devices in mind, but the tips can be applied to iPhones as well. Some of the strategies require planning (and often, internet access), so it’s a good idea to review them and implement any steps before you are in a situation where you do not have internet and you need to document. Save a copy of any of the tutorials so you can refer to them or share them during a shutdown. And finally, start practising the techniques and methods in your everyday work so that they become second-nature before you’re in a crisis.
Photo from original guide, used with permission.
One final note: While these tips can help you continue documenting in the face of a shutdown, we want to emphasize that the ultimate solution must be to restore internet access and successfully defend people’s right to record, and freedom of expression, information, and assembly. Fortunately, there is a global movement led by organizations like NetBlocks, AccessNow, and many others who are actively monitoring and sharing information about shutdowns. Advocates globally are engaging in strategic litigation against shutdowns. We stand in solidarity with their work to uphold human rights.

Cara Pendokumentasian Selama Pemadaman Internet

Pada bulan Juni 2019, saat pelanggaran HAM dan krisis kemanusiaan terus berlangsung di Myanmar, Menteri Perhubungan dan Komunikasi negara tersebut memerintahkan perusahaan telekomunikasi untuk memadamkan layanan internet seluler di wilayah Rakhine dan tetangganya Chin. Pemerintah Myanmar mengklaim melakukan pemadaman (shutdown) “untuk kepentingan umum”, menyebutnya sebagai “gangguan pada perdamaian” dan “aktivitas ilegal”. Pada kenyataannya, pemadaman internet terhadap sejuta orang itu memotong akses ke informasi dan komunikasi mendasar  serta mengganggu upaya kemanusiaan. Seperti pernyataan yang disampaikan Matthew Smith dari Fortify Rights, “Shutdown ini terjadi dalam konteks berlangsungnya genosida atas etnis Rohingya dan kejahatan perang terhadap Rakhine, dan bahkan jika ini ditujukan untuk menarget militan, tindakan ini jelas-jelas tidak sesuai proporsi.”

Pemadaman ini dipulihkan sebagian di 5 kota kecil pada September 2019, tapi masih terus berlangsung. Di bulan yang sama, di negeri tetangga Bangladesh di mana banyak suku Rohingya mengungsi, pemangku kekuasaan memerintahkan operator ponsel untuk memblokir layanan 3G dan 4G di kamp pengungsian Rohingya dan berhenti menjual kartu SIM kepada suku Rohingya. Memasuki tahun 2020, 4 kota kecil di Rakhine terus mengalami pemotongan akses dari dunia, dan Bangladesh terus membatasi layanan servis di kamp-kamp pengungsian.

Pendokumentasian Selama Pemadaman Internet

“Pemadaman internet dan pelanggaran hak asasi manusia berjalan beriringan.”

Berhan Taye, AccessNow

Secara global, pemadaman internet terus meningkat. Berdasarkan kampanye #KeepItOn AccessNow, ada 128 pemadaman yang disengaja selama bulan Januari-Juli 2019, dibandingkan dengan total 196 pada 2018, dan meningkat tajam dari tahun 2017 sebanyak 106 pemadaman, dan 75 pada tahun 2016. Di seluruh dunia, pemerintah bersama perusahaan telekomunikasi, melakukan pemadaman internet sebagai strategi untuk menekan masyarakat, mencegah mobilisasi, serta menghentikan penyebaran dan pendokumentasian informasi terkait pelanggaran hak asasi manusia.

Pemadaman internet bisa dilakukan dalam berbagai bentuk, termasuk pemblokiran terhadap platform spesifik yang menargetkan aplikasi dan situs populerpemadaman data selulerpembatasan bandwidth, atau pemadaman total internet. Semua jenis shutdown ini bertujuan untuk mengganggu  penyampaian informasi dan pengungkapan berbagai pelanggaran secara real-time. Hal ini sering terjadi selama unjuk rasa, pemilihan umum, dan periode ketidakstabilan politik, serta seringkali disertai dengan meningkatnya penindasan oleh negara, serangan militer dan kekerasan. Walaupun pemerintah mencoba untuk membenarkan shutdown atas nama keamanan publik atau alasan lainnyashutdown jelas dilakukan pada saat negara takut kehilangan kendali atas masyarakat, informasi, atau narasi politik. Shutdowns melanggar hak asasi manusia, sangat mengganggu kehidupan dan mata pencaharian, serta berdampak pada ekonomi global.

Types of internet shutdowns. Photo from WITNESS, used with permission.
Mendokumentasikan pelanggaran HAM sama pentingnya selama pemadaman internet. Bahkan jika informasi tidak dapat disebarkan pada saat itu, dokumentasi dapat menjadi cara untuk menjaga suara-suara yang berusaha dibungkam pihak berwenang, serta untuk mengamankan bukti pelanggaran yang dapat digunakan untuk menuntut pertanggungjawaban di kemudian hari. Proses pendokumentasian pelanggaran dan upaya menjaga dokumentasi ini tentu saja menjadi lebih menantang dan berisiko karena represi dan hambatan teknologi selama internet shutdownBagaimana para aktivis bisa mengambil dan menyimpan video mereka selama shutdown, membagikannya secara offline dan melakukannya dengan lebih aman?

Dalam Seri Ini

Melalui kerja sama dengan para aktivis yang telah mengalami pemadaman internet, kami mempelajari beberapa tips dan pendekatan yang berguna untuk mengambil dan menyimpan dokumentasi video selama internet shutdown yang akan dibagikan melalui seri ini. Kami menulis tips ini untuk gawait Android, tetapi tips tersebut juga bisa diterapkan untuk iPhone. Beberapa strategi membutuhkan perencanaan terlebih dulu (dan seringkali, akses internet). Jadi sebaiknya baca, coba, dan terapkan dulu sebelum berada dalam situasi di mana sulit mendapatkan akses internet padahal harus melakukan pendokumentasian. Simpan salinan dari setiap tutorial sehingga bisa dirujuk dan dibagikan selama shutdown. Terakhir, mulailah mempraktikkan teknik dan metode berikut dalam kegiatan sehari-hari, sehingga menjadi kebiasaan sebelum berada dalam krisis.
Photo from original guide, used with permission.
Catatan akhir: Meskipun tips tersebut dapat membantu pendokumetasian selama pemadaman internet, kami menekankan bahwa solusi akhir adalah harus memulihkan akses internet dan berhasil membela hak masyarakat untuk merekam, serta kebebasan berekspresi, informasi dan berkumpul. Untungnya, ada gerakan global yang dipimpin oleh organisasi seperti NetBlocksAccessNow dan lainnya yang secara aktif memantau dan berbagi informasi terkait shutdown. Para advokat secara global juga terlibat dalam litigasi strategis terhadap shutdown. Kami berdiri dalam solidaritas dengan kerja-kerja mereka untuk menegakkan hak asasi manusia.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
WITNESS Asia is the Asia-Pacific branch of WITNESS, an international organisation that supports people using video in their fight for human rights. Access more guides on the WITNESS blog.

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