Sudan: Govt. shuts down social media amid protests, raising concerns about freedom of expression & assembly

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2 January 2019

Sudan restricts social media access to counter protest movement

Author: Yousef Saba & Nafisa Eltahir, Reuters

Sudanese authorities are blocking access to popular social media platforms used to organize and broadcast nationwide anti-government protests triggered by an economic crisis, internet users say... Users of the three main telecommunications operators in the country — Zain, MTN and Sudani — said access to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp has only been possible through use of a virtual private network (VPN)... NetBlocks, a digital rights NGO, said data it collected, including from thousands of Sudanese volunteers, provided evidence of “an extensive internet censorship regime”. Bader al-Kharafi, CEO of parent company Zain Group, told Reuters: “Some websites may be blocked for technical reasons beyond the company’s specialization.”

Neither the National Telecommunications Corporation, which oversees the sector in Sudan, nor MTN or Sudani could be reached for comment. Twitter and Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp, declined to comment. “While Sudan has a long history of systematically censoring print and broadcast media, online media has been relatively untouched despite its exponential growth... in recent years,” said Mai Truong of U.S.-based advocacy group Freedom House. “The authorities have only now started to follow the playbook of other authoritarian governments.”

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28 December 2018

Sudan has blocked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to counter anti-govt protests

Author: Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Africa

For over a week now, protesters in major cities have demonstrated against rising bread prices besides soaring inflation and shortages in fuel. To remedy the dire economic and political situation, marchers have called on president Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled over the nation for almost three decades, to resign... Besides introducing a state of emergency and arresting opposition figures, the northeastern African state has also shut down social media access on mobile networks. Data collected by digital advocacy group NetBlocks on Dec. 21 shows varying attempts to block platforms including Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram on mobile networks. The internet was blocked on key telecom companies including MTN Sudan, Zain Sudan, Kanartel, and Sudatel. The interruption to these four services is expected to cost the economy over $7.5 million per day, according to estimates calculated through NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool... Digital rights advocates have decried the internet block, saying it against the right to access and share crucial information.

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27 December 2018

Amid countrywide protest, Sudan shuts down social media on mobile networks

Author: Berhan Taye, Access Now

[H]undreds of Sudanese have taken to the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country protesting soaring food and gas prices and many years of human rights violations under the Sudanese government. In response to spontaneous protests, security forces have reportedly shot and killed eight people and injured many more. Rather than addressing the critical political and economic issues Sudan is facing, the government has decided to shut down social media and introduced a state of emergency. Accessing information and exercising freedom of expression – especially in times of unrests –  are essential: it enables many to reach emergency and medical services, access life-saving information, and reach family and friends at home and abroad. Blocking access to social media has put many lives at risk and will continue to do so unless the government allows the free flow of information... Moreover, as many of the protesters across the country are protesting the rising prices of food and other essential items, cutting access to social media only adds fuel to the fire: it will contribute to the grave economic crisis and the high inflation facing Sudan. This countrywide social media outage is costing Sudan $7,521,798 per day. Pressure is building on telecom companies operating in the country, including MTN Sudan and Zain Sudan, to more transparently notify the public of restrictions and push back against government requests that could violate human rights.

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26 December 2018

Anonymous shuts down Sudan govt. websites

Author: Africa Times

"Activists: We're shutting down Sudan govt. websites," 26 Dec 2018

Activists in Sudan say that more than 200 government websites have been shut down by the Anonymous group, in retaliation for Khartoum’s violent actions against Sudanese protesters... “We are communicating with you today because something is very wrong with the Sudanese government,” the Anonymous hacker activists said in a statement. “We can’t tolerate injustice, inequality and the denial of the people rights.” The group said their action against the Sudanese government followed multiple reports that Facebook, What’s App and other social media services had been shutoff for days as protests continued to rage. The digital rights organization NetBlocks confirmed ongoing service disruptions to Twitter, Instagram and other services in an analysis of Zain-SDN and other providers made public at the weekend. “Thousands of volunteers across Sudan are providing detailed technical evidence of an extensive internet censorship regime implemented to suppress public demonstrations across the country,” the organization said in its report.

... At least 37 people have died in clashes with security forces by Monday, according to Amnesty International. It prompted the retaliatory action from Anonymous, which claimed at least 260 government sites were down. “The Sudanese government is restricting free speech and seeking to limit and control internet access. This government is even punishing the people for expressing their ideas and opinions,” the group said.

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