The public protest to block President Pierre Nkurunziza from seeking another term in office has led to some internet services being shut down in Burundi.
Earlier this week social network platforms such as Viber, Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp were shut down.Reports indicate that some internet service providers have implemented this shut down since some people could access the services using public Wi-Fi.
AccessNow, a global human rights group that safeguards citizens’ access to information services, says that it has written to United Nations and the African Union experts to ensure freedom of expression amidst the protests. “Blocking access to the internet, or applications on the internet such as social media, violates the right to freedom of expression by denying the right of persons to seek, receive, and impart information,” the letter read in part.
It added that, “Shutdowns frequently occur during periods of civil unrest, directly impacting the right to association. As a result, shutdowns often precede and enable egregious human rights violations because journalists and witnesses are unable to effectively report on repressive actions by state and non-state actors.”
A leading radio station has also been shut down, in suspicion that it was fuelling the protests.
Security forces expressed disapproval with Africa Public Radio, which has been extensively covering the protests.
AccessNow also confirmed that this censorship was in collaboration with the telecoms and ISP companies in the country.AccessNow writes: “Shutdowns, sometimes called ‘network interference,’ often entail the blocking or throttling of internet access, SMS, and telephone call traffic. They are carried out by telecommunications companies in response to government demands.”
In many parts of Africa due to conflict, telecom companies have found themselves under pressure to shut down services and interfere with public communication.
AccessNow pointed out the case in Democratic Republic of Congo where communication was shut down from January 19 to February 13 this year. In Niger services were interrupted from January 22 to 24 this year.
The body observed that there were increasing cases of communication interference and urged the UN and African Union experts to investigate these shut downs as they were a violation to human rights.