GNI Alarmed by Ongoing Network Disruptions in Sudan

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November 10, 2021  |  Policy

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is deeply alarmed by the ongoing Internet and telecommunications shutdown in Sudan. GNI is concerned by the serious human rights consequences of the recent military coup, including violations of the right to freedom of expression. GNI calls on the Sudanese authorities to respect freedom of expression and media freedom and restore network connectivity throughout the country.

On 25 October, the military arm of the Sudanese joint civil-military coalition government staged a coup d’état, arresting, among others, the Prime Minister, Minister of Communications, and Minister of Information and Culture. The military government initiated an Internet blackout the same morning, and service appears to have remained largely shut off since. Internal mobile phone and SMS service has also been mostly shut down, with intermittent ability to make and receive international calls. Reports indicate network disruptions have impacted ongoing protests by pro-democracy groups in the capital, Khartoum, and cities throughout the country, some of which have been met with violence from military forces. On 9 November, A Sudanese court ordered the country’s three main telecommunications providers to restore access, but reports indicate access to Internet services remain limited.

GNI has long maintained the importance of ensuring uninterrupted network access, especially during times of civil unrest, so that the public can communicate with loved ones, vital emergency and health services can function smoothly, and the media can report accurately from the ground. This is all the more critical given the recent history of violent responses to political unrest and restrictions on media and digital communications services in Sudan. GNI-member the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented ongoing arrests and attacks on prominent journalists, and called on the military to respect press freedom and journalist safety “at a critical moment in the country’s history.”

UN human rights experts have condemned the coup, specifically noting concern about the telecommunications shutdown, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stating that “blanket internet disruptions contravene international law.” GNI condemns the telecommunications shutdown as a violation of human rights, and calls for the full restoration of all telecommunications services in Sudan.

GNI previously condemned network disruptions ordered by the military government in 2019, coinciding with protests that led to the original military-civilian power-sharing agreement. You can learn more about GNI’s research and advocacy on network disruptions here, including our one-page guide on the impacts of network disruptions, available in Arabic.

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