The Global Network Initiative is alarmed by the widespread blocking of websites and social media amid the crisis in Iraq. The reported blocking of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as other sites, inhibits civilians’ ability to connect with family members and reach emergency services, reducing access to information at a time when it is urgently needed. The blocking of these services follows two earlier government-directed Internet outages documented earlier this week by Renesys. Governments who shut down communications services and networks in moments of crisis risk violating the right to freedom of expression.

GNI urges the Iraqi government to adhere to international standards when undertaking any measures to limit speech due to national security and terrorist threats. In particular, any restrictions on free expression should meet the tests of legality, necessity, and proportionality set out in Article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. GNI recommends the Iraqi Ministry of Communications to restore access to blocked sites and consider less intrusive alternative measures.