Access Now is calling for an immediate reinstatement of internet access across Eswatini after authorities shut it down
yesterday, June 29, in response to large-scale pro-democracy protests.
“Shutting down the internet is a bad decision,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “But time and time again, these bad decisions get made. Authorities in Eswatini claim they want peace, but are in fact
flaming tensions. Shutting down the internet then establishing a new email account for people to ‘express their
grievances’ is absurd.”
Rumours of a potential internet shutdown sprang up on Twitter
yesterday morning, and were later confirmed by local newspapers
, stating the government ordered network providers Eswatini Post and Telecommunications, eSwatini MTN, and eSwatini
Mobile to disconnect the nation.
In response to the growing unrest and physical gatherings during COVID-19, Acting Prime Minister, Themba N. Masuku, released a statement
that outlines a curfew and school closures. “We are a Nation that believes in dialogue and it is with that in mind that
we once again request all aggrieved emaSwati to use alternative channels to express their grievances. Government has
opened an email address where emaSwati can continue to direct their concerns and petitions,” it reads.
The statement was published on the Eswatini government’s official Twitter account
at approximately 15:20 local time. IODA and Google Transparency Report
indicated a massive drop in traffic in the next two to five hours, however, Access Now received reports of disruptions
starting earlier that day.
Access Now will continue to update the global community when more information is available.