A training in the IRHR curriculum was conducted under DEF’s eNGO training program of helping NGOs leverage digital tools to increase their effectiveness & efficiency. The first training was scheduled on the 21st of September 2015 in Kolkata. A total of 25 individuals representing 24 NGOs were present for the training. The second training was scheduled on the 27th of September in Lucknow. A total of 40 representatives from 38 organisations were present. The third training was conducted in Delhi on the 12th of October. A smaller group of representatives from 8 organisations were present.
These NGO’s work in fields ranging from water, sanitation & health (WASH) to education, livelihood generation, environmental protection, women empowerment and allied human rights in the eastern states of India (West Bengal, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha).
The expectation of the participants was not explicitly elicited; however, there was a brief interaction with some of the participants before the sessions with regards to the intention of the IRHR module. It emerged that while most of them had knowledge about human rights at various levels (beginner, intermediate and experienced), none of them had any understanding on the concepts of linking human rights and the online space.
The training began with a brief introduction into the concept of rights, human rights and the internet. the training session was constructed in such a way that the learning curve is constructed based on the responses of the participants. A context setting exercise was conducted in which participants were asked questions on the thoughts that came to their mind when asked about terms like “rights”, “human rights”, “internet” and “internet rights”.
As most of the organisations deal with rights access issues of some kind, they all provided incredible insights into the meaning of rights and human rights; including examples from the Constitution of India, the UDHR and the ICCPR.
The abundance of responses from the participants led us to the next step in the learning process; understanding specific fundamental rights as laid down in the Constitution of India, specifically: The Freedom of Expression (Article 19(1)a), The Freedom of Assembly (Article 19(1)b), The Freedom of Association (Article 19(1)c) and The Reasonable Restriction to Freedom of Expression (Article 19(2)). Understanding these rights in the offline space is critical to lay a context for the next step of the training: understanding fundamental rights online.
Most of the respondents across the 3 trainings showed limited to intermediate understanding of the internet and online communication platforms (email, social media, video and audio). Therefore, they also demonstrated a limited understanding of the applicability of specific fundamental rights in the online space. It was interesting to note that despite their limited understanding of the internet, most of them were aware about the basics surrounding the ruling of the Supreme Court of India on Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
The session then moved onto cases that deal with the applicability of fundamental rights in the online space. These cases have been developed by the Digital Empowerment Foundation and document the legal aspects of the cases along with the specific incident. The modules that have been created cover:
- Human Rights, ICTs and the Internet
- Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information
- Freedom of Association and Freedom of Assembly and
- Freedom of Privacy
At the end of each module, there is a mapping of the various themes and laws quoted in the module. To maintain time, we did not cover all the cases developed. However, booklets were provided for all the participants.
Each of the selected cases from each module was read out and the floor was opened to an extended group discussion that delved into the many aspects of each case. What was interesting to note was that some of the participants, across the different trainings demonstrated two distinct perceptions; as a member of an organisation and as an individual. This points to an interesting perceptual difference inherent in each individual.
To close up the session, the participants were asked to catalogue, in groups or individually, the meaning of the Freedom of Expression and Information in both, the online and offline space from two distinct perceptions; as a member of an NGO and as an individual. This exercise was to expand upon the perceptual differences mentioned earlier.
Some of the participants stayed behind after the close of the session to engage with the training team further and to clarify any issues/doubts that they may have had with any material covered in the session.