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#RejectFinanceBill2024: Foreign and Local organisations raise concerns about possible internet shutdown in Kenya


Amidst massive protests planned in Kenya on Tuesday over the controversial Finance Bill 2024, several international and local organisations are raising concerns about the possibility of an internet shutdown by the government. 

The organisations say shutting down or throttling the internet would be a gross violation of fundamental human rights. 

‘’It will undermine the legitimate rights of people to organize, demonstrate and participate in policy-making processes,’’ the statement signed by Twenty-seven organisations, Kenyan associations of content creators, lawyers, medical officers and human rights defenders reads. 

These organisations include Access Now, Amnesty International Kenya, Article 19 Eastern Africa, the Law Society of Kenya, The Police Reforms Working Group, the Bloggers Association of Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and the Kenya Medical Association.

Other concerns raised by the organisations are shadow-banning hashtags or a mass media ban on live reporting. They say doing this will undermine the legitimate rights of people to organize, demonstrate and participate in policy-making processes.

Internet shutdown in Africa
[Image source: https://bit.ly/33a3oRl]
Internet shutdowns are not something new in Africa. In the past two years, governments in the Republic countries like Ethiopia Congo, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia have cut off internet access during election periods and in response to national protests. Data from Access Now shows that in 2022 alone, governments in seven African countries shut down the internet nine times.

The continent also leads in terms of social media disruptions over the period of seven years. Out of 72 internet disruption cases in 2022, social media platforms were targeted six times: twice in Europe and Africa. This is according to a 2022 Surfshark study co-created with internet watchdog NetBlocks. 

As the reject Finance Bill 2024 protests continue in Kenya, the organisations are calling upon the Government of Kenya and the Communications Authority (CA) to affirm that the people of Kenya can access an open, reliable, secure and free internet and a free press at a time when they need it the most.

‘’At this critical democratic juncture in Kenya, it is important that the government appreciates the crucial role of the internet and mass media in policy discourse and refrains from any form of internet shutdown or media interference,‘’ they say. 

Other bodies including Kictanet, Paradigm Initiative, and Internet Society Kenya Chapter have also joined the calls. In a statement released on Monday evening, the three said such measures would infringe on the fundamental rights and freedoms of Kenyans as well as negatively impact Kenya’s economy, democracy and reputation in the eyes of the international community.

”Kenya’s constitution and international human rights legislation safeguard the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, access to information and picketing which would be violated by internet shutdowns and information controls. By prohibiting citizens from engaging in public conversation and holding the government responsible, they subvert democratic processes,” they said.

Upate from the Communications Authority

In a rejoinder, the CA however said it has no intention to shut down internet traffic or interfere with the quality of connectivity.

”Such actions would be a betrayal of the constitution as a whole, the freedom of expression in particular and our own ethos” a statement by CA Director General and CEO, David Mugonyi reads.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.

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