Civil society groups call on MTN Group to denounce internet shutdowns in Sudan & support unfettered internet access; MTN did not respond

An internet shutdown in Sudan persisted for more than five weeks, beginning June 3, 2019, when government forces carried out a large-scale attack on protesters in Khartoum, killing more than 100 people and injuring hundreds more. MTN Sudan and other telecommunications companies allegedly blocked access to the internet through disruption of various local and roaming cellular data networks, as well as some fixed-line services.

Access Now, African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Coalition, Article 19 East Africa, Witness, and 19 other civil society groups have stated that by implementing these blocks, MTN Sudan and others contributed to the government's interference with the exercise of human rights, including the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, as well as press freedom, and prevented people from accessing emergency medical services, putting lives at risk. These civil society groups have called on MTN Group and MTN Sudan to denounce the internet shutdowns in Sudan and pledge their support to maintain unfettered internet access in the country. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited MTN Group to respond; it did not.

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Company non-response
5 August 2019

MTN Group did not respond

10 July 2019

MTN contributed to human rights violations in Sudan, say 23 civil society groups

Author: Access Now, Article 19 East Africa, Witness & 20 other civil society groups

We write to urgently request that you publicly denounce the internet shutdowns in Sudan, and pledge your support to maintain unfettered internet access in the country, especially in moments of conflict or unrest. In line with your past commitments to respect digital rights in the places where you operate, it is crucial that you exercise all possible methods of denouncing the shutdown, providing information to the public around how and why it was implemented, and contributing to reporting on its impact... In the wake of this violence, MTN Sudan and other telecommunications companies blocked access to the internet... By implementing these blocks, MTN Sudan and others contributed to the TMC’s interference with the exercise of human rights.

... As a leading telecommunications provider in Sudan, Africa, and beyond, MTN Group and its subsidiary MTN Sudan enable people to exercise their rights and enjoy the economic, social, and cultural benefits of the global internet... he recent shutdowns in Sudan posed a severe threat to the safety, health, and wellbeing of MTN’s affected customers, and present an important opportunity for MTN to rise to, and exceed, baseline expectations of human rights due diligence, and mitigation and remedy of any violations. To do so, MTN should urgently adopt the recommendations outlined below... [including] [r]eveal any demands from the government that led you to disrupt internet access, and any gag order or other pressure to conceal the demand... [and] Jointly push back against government censorship demands.

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