eSwatini govt accused of throttling digital communications
Civil rights group, the Right2Know Campaign, has expressed deep concern over the internet shutdown in eSwatini amid ongoing political protests, and has called on South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation to intervene.
According to the organisation MTN eSwatini confirmed that the organisation was experiencing “disruption to services as of Tuesday 29 June”.
Right2Know referenced reports by The East African newspaper that the government ordered eSwatini post and telecommunications, eSwatini mobile as well as Swazi MTN to shut down services and an email was then set up for citizens to express their grievances.
News24 reported that MTN had switched off access to all social media platforms and online messaging applications on its network.
Right2Know released a statement which read in part: “This throttling of communication channels for citizens to petition the government is the most egregious form of censorship and oppression in the continent’s last absolute monarchy.”
It called on South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation to intervene and added: “We call on the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to assist and have the internet lifted as this shutdown is clearly a violation in freedom of expression. We call on eSwatini MTN to open the internet and eSwatini Post and Telecommunications to be opened. It is dangerous in the midst of a pandemic and the 4IR for the government to have this amount of power. In this instance the shutting down of the internet is not only government repression at play but also a violation of the fundamental right to access to information and most of all a human rights violation.
“The Right2Know calls on the eSwatini government not only to open up channels for citizens to submit petitions, but to engage fully and committed to a constructive solution for all who live in eSwatini. We call on King Mswati III to show true leadership and to listen to the cries for greater democracy and full participation by representative structures,” the statement continued.
In March this year, ITWeb Africa reported on a study by private protection company Surfshark which revealed that over the past six years, a total of 28 (out of 54) African countries have employed some form of a social media ban or a heavy disruption, while 15 of these cases were election-related.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been reported notable internet shutdowns in Uganda and Senegal.
In early January 2020, ITWeb Africa reported that according to the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019 report, published by Internet research firm Top10VPN, globally, more than 18 000 hours of Internet shutdowns around the world cost more than US$8-billion in the same year.
In Africa, Algeria, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe were among the worst offenders in terms of the amount of time the internet was disrupted.