GENEVA – A United Nations expert has called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to restore internet services in the country.
Primary telecommunications were shut down ahead of the announcement of the results to determine President Joseph Kabila’s successor after 18 years of iron fisted rule.
DRC held general elections on December 30.
“A general network shutdown is in clear violation of international law and cannot be justified by any means,” said David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.
“Access to information is crucial for the credibility of the ongoing electoral process. Shutdowns are damaging not only for people’s access to information, but also for their access to basic services,” the expert said.
Reports indicate that the shutdown is hindering electoral observers and witnesses in relaying information from rural polling stations to the local centres for compiling results. It is also hampering the UN mission’s (MONUSCO) ability to communicate with its partners in the field, including with protection mechanisms.
In 2016, the Human Rights Council passed a resolution which unequivocally condemned measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law, and called on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.
This followed the 2015 Joint Declaration of UN and regional experts in the field of freedom of expression, which stated that network shutdowns or internet “kill switches” are measures which can “never be justified under human rights law”.
Source: UN Human Rights Council