Over the past year, billions of people all over the world have relied heavily on internet connectivity to keep in touch with family and friends, learn online, work from home and get vital information about the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet over the course of 2020, 29 countries intentionally shut down or slowed their internet communications at least 155 times, according to a new report published by Access Now, a non-profit digital rights group.
“We are extremely concerned how government authorities are using internet shutdowns as a systemised tool to repress democratic expression, even in the middle of a global pandemic,” Raman Jit Singh Chima, senior international counsel and Asia Pacific policy director at Access Now said.
Internet and telecommunication services have been shut down across several African countries including Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.
In Ethiopia, 100 million people were plunged into a complete media blackout for two weeks following protests after the killing of Oromo musician, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
In Kenya, there were at least two reported internet disruptions in 2020 after two telecommunications towers were destroyed in Mandera County by the Somali armed group, al-Shabab.
Why governments shut down the internet:
Governments have justified internet shutdowns citing fake news, precautionary measures, public safety and national security among other reasons.
The actual reasons for shutdowns have stemmed from political instability, elections, protests, communal violence, information control and exam cheating.
Seven countries including India, Guinea, Belarus, Burundi, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania and Togo shut down the internet during an election period in 2020.
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