Internet a fundamental right but security critical too: Prestone

SHILLONG: Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong on Tuesday said that access to internet is a fundamental right, but so is safety and security of the citizens.
Tynsong’s assertion comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court recently holding right to access internet as a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution. The apex court’s observation came while hearing petitions challenging restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
Even the state had witnessed such curbs twice in the last two years when internet services were suspended to contain the law and order situation.
The first time internet was suspended in the state was in the wake of violence over the Harijan Colony issue in 2018 and the second time it was resorted to was last month after large scale disturbances broke out over protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and demand for implementation of Inner Line Permit in the state.
Admitting that the Constitution guarantees fundamental rights, Tynsong said it also needs to be understood that the government suspends internet to ensure safety and security of the people, which is also a fundamental right.
Acknowledging that social media plays both positive and negative roles, he, however, said that only two-three per cent of the users misuse it by spreading rumours and blowing up even small incidents which could then jeopardise the law and order situation.
“If one isolated incident happens in one locality, it does not mean that the whole Shillong should burn,” he said.
“If circumstances arise where the government has to suspend internet service it is not done for its own interest, but for that of the people”, he said. “It is not done blindly but only after proper assessment of the situation”, he said.
The deputy chief minister said that suspending internet service had helped in containing the situation in the state. Referring to the Supreme Court observation, he said, “Yes, the Supreme Court has said that access to internet is a fundamental right, but at the same time we also need to appreciate the fundamental rights of the 96-97 per cent of the people as they also need to live peacefully”.

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