The government of Tanzania allegedly shut down the internet four days to the presidential election that is to hold on the 28th of October. According to reports, the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered network providers to suspend access to SMS and bulk voice services ahead of the polls.
Since the directive was issued, there have been reports about the blocking of text messages containing election-related keywords. Many people have accused the government of also blocking internet access in the country. Twitter, WhatsApp, and other sites are now being accessed via VPNs. Some reports show that Facebook and Instagram are still working at the moment.
Access Now and 28 other human rights activists have formed the #KeepItOn coalition and are calling on President John Magufuli and James Kilaba, the Director of TCRA to ensure access to the internet and other communications channels. The coalition demands that the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority reverse the directive issued to network providers.
Access Now and other activist groups are asking the government of Tanzania must urgently take the following steps to facilitate transparency and enable citizens’ active participation in the upcoming election:
- Reverse the TCRA directive ordering telcos to restrict services, and rather encourage telcos to ensure quality service to everyone throughout the election period.
- Ensure that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, remains open, accessible, and secure across Tanzania throughout the election.
- Order Internet service providers operating in Tanzania to provide everyone with high-quality, secure, and unrestricted internet access throughout the election period and thereafter.
- Order Internet service providers operating in the country to inform internet users of any disruptions and to work around the clock to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive.