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India 29 September 2003

Government ban on separatist site blocks access to all Yahoo ! discussion groups

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Indian authorities to rescind instructions issued to Internet service providers to block access to the "Kyunhun" discussion forum, which is reportedly linked to the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, a banned separatist group in the state of Meghalaya.

The organisation questioned the need to ban this discussion group and voiced outrage about the measure’s side-effects. The Kyunhun site is hosted by Yahoo !, and an unintended consequence of the ban is that Indian Internet users have lost access to all Yahoo ! websites.

"This case highlights the danger of Internet censorship giving rise to complex technical problems," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "Blocking a few web pages can result in the blocking of hundreds of other web pages that have nothing to do with the banned content - this is a recurring problem on which we must remain very vigilant."

The decision to block the Kyunhun discussion group was announced by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), a government agency which has the power to block Internet sites deemed to be obscene or a threat to state security. This is the first time the agency has adopted this kind of measure.

Indian ISPs complied with the instruction by blocking Kyunhun’s IP address, a crude procedure that makes no distinction between this forum and other Yahoo ! forums. They thereby rendered all of the forums hosted on inaccessible.

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