The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is deeply alarmed by the ongoing Internet shutdown in Sudan. GNI shares the concerns expressed by a number of our members who have spoken publicly about the serious human rights consequences of recent actions by the Sudanese Transitional Military Council (TMC) — including violations of freedom of expression. GNI calls on the Sudanese authorities to respect freedom of expression and media freedom, including by restoring network connectivity throughout the country.
Reports of large-scale network disruptions emerged on June 3, the same day as a violent attack on a large sit-in by paramilitary forces associated with the TNC, which has been followed by subsequent violence and intimidation. Since then, disruptions of networks and services have increased in severity to a “near-total blackout on connectivity for a majority of citizens,” according to NetBlocks. As Social Media Exchange (SMEX) has noted, “The disruption of communications not only violates the fundamental human rights of freedom of assembly, access to information, and freedom of speech, but also contravenes U.N. resolution A/HRC/32/L.20” and African Commission Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa – ACHPR/Res. 362(LIX). This follows significant network disruptions in Sudan in response to protests in September, 2013.
It is concerning that the shutdown also followed the TMC’s closure of Al-Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau. “This action belies military leaders’ statements that they intend to serve and protect the public; they should immediately reverse course and allow Al-Jazeera to operate freely,” said Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour.
Human Rights Watch has pointed out that, “The UN Human Rights Council has unequivocally condemned measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online, in violation of international human rights law, and said that all countries should refrain from and cease such measures. Sit-ins and calls for peaceful civil disobedience do not justify the Transitional Military Council wholesale denial of internet access.”
For more on this issue, see the GNI Statement on Network and Service Shutdowns, and read about the potential costs of network and service disruptions to economies, societies, and human rights in the GNI one-page guide.